Cantona sideswipe as Mourinho closes in on Manchester United

London (AFP) – Jose Mourinho is expected to be named as Manchester United’s new manager despite club great Eric Cantona saying incoming Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola would have been a better choice.

Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes was in talks with United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward in London on Tuesday after Louis van Gaal’s troubled two-year reign at Old Trafford ended with his sacking a day earlier.

Former Chelsea boss Mourinho is reported to have been offered a three-year deal worth £15 million ($21 million, 19 million euros) per season and would be given a transfer war-chest of around £200 million to revive the troubled Premier League club.

United are believed to have made their interest in Mourinho known to his camp several months ago and the contract negotiations should go smoothly, with the only obstacles believed to be image rights and potential clauses in his severance package at Chelsea.

The deal could be finalised as soon as Wednesday, 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.

“Guardiola was the one to take,” Cantona 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 is set to join United just as Guardiola joins their bitter rivals Manchester City from Bayern Munich.

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.

“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.

“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.”

– Nice prospect –

Mourinho, who could be introduced to the media by the end of the week, is expected to bring long-time assistant Rui Faria and goalkeeping coach Silvino Louro with him, meaning van Gaal’s assistant coaches Albert Stuivenberg and Frans Hoek, as well as performance analyst Max Reckers, are all likely to be dismissed.

That would leave only Ryan Giggs as the last remaining member of van Gaal’s staff and his future is uncertain after reports that he had been offered a less senior position by Mourinho.

Giggs, regarded as one of United’s all-time great players, has spent 29 years with the club and is said to have flown to Dubai to consider his options before giving Mourinho an answer.

Spanish winger Juan Mata could also be on his way out of Old Trafford after being sold to United within six months of Mourinho arriving at Chelsea for his second spell at the club.

Mata had won the Chelsea player of the year award in the previous two seasons, but Mourinho quickly decided he didn’t feature in his plans.

Although Cantona is unsure of Mourinho’s suitability for Old Trafford, United winger Memphis Depay is looking forward to a clean slate after being frozen out by van Gaal.

Depay was axed from United’s FA Cup final squad after some poor performances this season and he plans to speak to Netherlands team-mate Wesley Sneijder, who worked with Mourinho at Inter Milan, to find out more about his prospective new boss.

“If the arrival of Mourinho becomes official, I’ll ask Wesley Sneijder what kind of man he is,” Depay told De Telegraaf. 

“That’s interesting. It all sounds so, but it is not yet official.”

Told that Sneijder once said Mourinho was the best coach he ever worked under, Depay added: “That’s a nice prospect.”

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.

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.

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