The French legend, in an exclusive interview on his 50th birthday, says Pep Guardiola is the only manager capable of changing Manchester and explains why he will be cheering on England at Euro 2016 not France
Eric Cantona turned 50 on Tuesday and is still doing what he has always done best: playing the part of Eric Cantona to a tee. For Manchester United fans still digesting the end of the soured Louis van Gaal era and the imminent arrival of Jos Mourinho, he has a simple diagnosis of what has gone wrong.
They miss me, Cantona says, playful but serious at the same time. I think they have lost something. You can feel it. But its difficult to come after someone who has been at the club 25 years. Even if you are a great manager, the fans still feel the philosophy of Ferguson.
But while Van Gaals departure after two disappointing seasons was finally confirmed on Monday night his successor does not fill one of the clubs most celebrated former players with optimism, either. I love Jos Mourinho, but in terms of the type of football he plays I dont think he is Manchester United, Cantona says. I love his personality, I love the passion he has for the game, his humour. He is very intelligent, he demands 100% of his players. And of course he wins things.
But I dont think its the type of football that the fans of Manchester United will love, even if they win. He can win with Manchester United. But do they expect that type of football, even if they win? I dont think so.
Cantona, back on the small screen this summer as the face of ITVs marketing campaign for its sports coverage, believes Mourinhos once and future nemesis would have been a much better fit. Guardiola was the one to take. He is the spiritual son of Johan Cruyff, he says, praising the late Dutch master for having overseen two revolutions one as a player at Ajax and another as a coach at Barcelona. I would have loved to have seen Guardiola in Manchester [United]. He is the only one to change Manchester. He is in Manchester, but at the wrong one.
It is 19 years since Cantona delivered one more shock to a football world electrified by his presence, by announcing his retirement from the game at just 30. Which means it must be two decades since he willed Manchester United to the 1995-96 double, his goals reeling in Kevin Keegans Newcastle entertainers and weaving him ever more tightly into the mythology that is now relentlessly sold back to the clubs global fanbase.