Cantona sideswipe as Jose Mourinho closes in on Man Utd job

London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho was closing in on becoming Manchester United’s new manager on Tuesday despite club great Eric Cantona saying incoming Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola would have been a better pick.

Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes was in talks with United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, British media reported, less than 24 hours after Louis van Gaal’s troubled two-year reign came to a sour end.

Former Chelsea boss Mourinho, one of football’s most intriguing characters, would march into Old Trafford boasting a personal trophy haul that includes three English Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns.

But Cantona, whose goals helped fire United to four Premier League titles in the 1990s, said the defensive-minded Portuguese was the wrong man for the job, in an unexpected and incendiary intervention.

“Guardiola was the one to take,” the Frenchman told The Guardian newspaper.

“He is the only one to change Manchester (United). He is in Manchester, but at the wrong one.”

Cantona’s comments will only inflame the personal rancour between Mourinho and Guardiola.

Mourinho would arrive at Manchester United just as Guardiola joins their bitter rivals Manchester City from Bayern Munich, for his first taste of the Premier League.

When Mourinho was in charge of Real Madrid and Guardiola running their sworn enemy Barcelona, the Portuguese never missed an opportunity to take a swipe at the Spaniard.

However, Mourinho won just three of their 16 meetings.

– Cantona kicks out –

“I love Jose Mourinho, but in terms of the type of football he plays I don’t think he is Manchester United,” said Cantona, who turned 50 on Tuesday.

“I love his personality, I love the passion he has for the game, his humour. He is very intelligent, he demands 100 percent of his players. And of course he wins things.

“But I don’t think it’s the type of football that the fans of Manchester United will love, even if they win.”

Van Gaal was dismissed on Monday, less than 48 hours after winning the FA Cup: the price for failing to get one of the world’s biggest clubs into the Champions League.

As unfancied Leicester won the title and with Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City ahead of them, United finished fifth in the Premier League and thereby missed out on a spot among Europe’s elite.

That proved the final straw for the Glazer family, the club’s US-based owners.

Van Gaal, who said in a statement he was “very disappointed” by his sacking, agreed a severance package of £4.55 million ($6.5 million, 5.8 million euros) on the final year of his three-year contract, The Tines newspaper reported.

United’s Dutch defender Daley Blind said Champions League winner Van Gaal, 64, had not always been well treated over the past six months and he would have liked to have worked with him more.

“A manager like Louis van Gaal has achieved so much and therefore deserves more respect,” he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

“We continued to believe in each other and our manager, with the beautiful end result of winning the FA Cup.”

– Chelsea blues –

Mourinho has been out of work since being sacked by Chelsea in December after a miserable campaign marred by rifts with the club’s star players and backroom staff.

The situation eventually became intolerable for owner Roman Abramovich as the Blues, champions just months earlier, languished near the relegation zone.

Now the colourful and controversial 53-year-old will hope to restore his reputation by bringing back the sparkle to United.

A casually-dressed Mourinho left his London home on Tuesday and returned carrying hand-written notes.

The BBC said his appointment was unlikely to be finalised Tuesday but was expected to be completed within the week.

Mourinho would face the challenge of significantly improving an unbalanced and often lacklustre United squad in time for the new season, which begins in August.

Outgoing Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Mario, Everton defender John Stones, Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic and Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann are reportedly among the names on his wanted list.

But Mourinho might also have to deal with scepticism that his rock-solid defensive approach might prove too similar to those of Van Gaal, whose dull tactics frustrated United fans.

If he can rebuild the confidence of his squad and make United champions for the first time since 2013, Mourinho may regard it as his finest achievement yet.

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One Response

  1. SilverRey May 24, 2016

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