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Eric returns to warmer welcome

05 Aug 2011 07:03:00

Eric returns to warmer welcome

Eric Cantona does not believe there is any chance of modern-day players enjoying the same Premier League baptism he had to endure. Cantona returns to Old Trafford on Friday night, 14 years after his shock retirement as a Manchester United player to begin the next segment of his unconventional life, as football director of MLS hopefuls New York Cosmos. The legendary American outfit are the opponents for Paul Scholes' testimonial, a fitting tribute to one of the greatest English players of his generation, given Cantona's presence at United inspired him to the highest honours in the game. Cantona's took a circuitous route to Old Trafford, via a one-week trial at Sheffield Wednesday and two half seasons at Leeds, during which time he helped them win the League Championship and scored a hat-trick in the Charity Shield. That November, he left for United, proving the catalyst for an era of dominance that is still continuing. "I thought I had come to sign for Sheffield Wednesday," he recalled. "We had played a friendly game in midweek, won 4-3 and I scored three goals. I didn't think that was too bad, but after a week they said I needed another week on trial. I said no and I left. "Howard Wilkinson came and asked me to play for Leeds. I had a great time there. They had not won the title for years. "It shows how things change. If you have played for France and you come to England now, you will be welcomed like a hero." A hero is exactly how Cantona will be greeted this evening, even though he will be in the opposition dugout, facing Ferguson and Scholes, who confirmed his retirement a couple of days after United's Champions League defeat to Barcelona in May. Once all the celebrations are out of the way, Scholes will sit down with Ferguson to discuss the minor details of a coaching role that has been offered in abstract without any real explanation of what will be involved. In a sense, Scholes is an unlikely coach. However, if he is able to transfer his unquestioned ability as a footballer onto the training ground, the 36-year-old would be an invaluable asset. "A couple of years ago I felt like my career was never going to end, so you don't think about what to do in the future in the same way as I have done over the past six months," said Scholes. "Football is the only thing I know a little bit about so I am going to give the coaching a go. "If it doesn't work or I am not very good at it I won't carry on doing it."


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