Eric Cantona is a Manchester United legend, a player still as worshipped on the Stretford End today as he was thirty years ago.
Between 1992 and 1997, he made 185 appearances for United, scoring 82 goals. He was a four-time Premier League winner and a two-time FA Cup champion. He was an enigma, on and off the field, and made as many headlines for his unique behaviour as he did for his football skills.
Since retiring, he’s become a beach soccer champion and moved into acting. However, he recently revealed he offered the Premier League club his services as a technical director, and whilst the fans would likely love to have seen it, the club did not want the controversial Frenchman back on the staff.
“Last year, I proposed to the club to change their way,” Cantona told The Athletic. “Ed Woodward is great at marketing but not great at football. United should have a chairman and then they should have a president of marketing and then a president of football, who is in charge of all the decisions in football. So, I proposed to them that I should be president of football.”
United’s current form hasn’t been bad; they’ve already beaten Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of the international break, and there’s a hope Erik ten Hag can bring a degree of success back to Old Trafford. They’re behind four clubs in the current football odds from Coral, which means a trophy may be hard to come by despite improvements. That was the crux of Cantona’s request to return to Manchester.
“Since [Sir Alex] Ferguson retired in 2013, the club doubled their revenue but didn’t win anything. So, imagine if you succeed in football and also have great people in marketing, then instead of doubling the revenue, then you would treble it. But they do not understand that. The club spends a lot of money. But you have to spend it well.”
This summer, United added a raft of new faces, including Madrid midfielder Casemiro, Antony from Ajax and Danish star Christian Eriksen. They’ve all played a role in the team’s strong start, but there does seem a long way to go before they reach the heights of Sir Alex’s swashbuckling side from the nineties. Indeed, it’s been almost a decade since the club last won the league and five years since they won a trophy. That barren spell is the worst since 1969-1974, a run which saw them relegated from Division One.
Would Eric Cantona have been the answer to their problems? It’s hard to see how such an abrasive and divisive character could have worked alongside Ed Woodward, himself renowned for having difficult methods for others to align with, but there’s no doubt it could have returned a feel-good factor to the supporters. The arguments around the Glazers’ ownership have caused Old Trafford to be a toxic place of late, and only Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s return helped build some bridges in supporters’ eyes. With him gone, the focus has renewed on the owners, which could derail the new manager’s quest to reinstate United as the kings of English football.
As for Cantona, he is happy he did at least try to help his former employers. “I tried,” he says. “So, nobody in my family can say I did not try anything to help United. They do not want it. That’s their choice. But I tried it.”
CREDIT: Ardfern, Cantona at The Lowry, Salford, February 2017 (05)
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