Cantona taunts City over lack of youth policy
Published 04/08/2011 | 05:00
Manchester United legend Eric Cantona has warned Manchester City that they will never match his former club's success until they start to spend on their academy.
Once again City owner Sheikh Mansour has splashed the cash this summer, investing heavily in Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic, with the prospect of a hefty bid for Samir Nasri likely to be lodged before the Premier League gets under way on August 13.
Yet, manager Roberto Mancini complained towards the end of last season about the lack of players with first-team potential in the City academy, which previously produced some outstanding talent.
And Cantona, back in Manchester to take charge of the New York Cosmos team that will face United in Paul Scholes' testimonial at Old Trafford tomorrow, believes City will pay the price if they do not invest in the future.
"I don't know how City work. Maybe they are working on the academy, but today they want to spend millions to buy players," said Cantona.
"If they only want to do that, they will not be as strong as Manchester United, who work on the long term, with young talent."
Cantona also launched a broadside at Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, who have this summer both criticised the lifestyle in Manchester.
"They don't like the place?" he laughed. "It depends on where they come from. If they come from Milan, maybe. Also it depends why they have come.
"I had a great time here and a great time in the city, but the most important thing for me was to play for the best club in the world, with the best players in the world. I was a professional player. I didn't try to find a city to enjoy it. The greatest time you can have is on the pitch."
Cantona is delighted to be back at Old Trafford, 14 years after leaving so abruptly that hardly anyone had the opportunity to say goodbye.
He returns as manager of a team in which huge investment and PR could make them Major League soccer's 20th -- and best known -- outfit.
"I didn't want to come back like any other ex-player," said Cantona. "I wanted to come back with a special club.
"We have a lot of things to do. We want to do them well. We want to win things and build things. We want to work on the long term and try to be one of the best teams in the USA and maybe help, through our young talent, the national team to win the World Cup -- just as Barcelona helped Spain last year.
"I know all clubs want young players. But we are special and better than the others," added Cantona, who will include several of his Cosmos youngsters in his team alongside guests Fabio Cannavaro, Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge and Gary Neville -- but not David Beckham, whose contract with MLS rival Los Angeles Galaxy ruled him out.
Cantona's managerial rival tomorrow night will be Alex Ferguson, the man who asked Martin Edwards to throw in the Frenchman's name during a random phone call with then Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby in 1992, resulting in a transfer that changed the face of English football.
"Maybe I will die before Alex," said Cantona. "I am sure he will be on the bench forever. It is his life. He has been a great manager for Manchester United."
Cantona certainly feels Ferguson will be more difficult to replace than any of the stellar talents who have left United during the Scot's incredible reign, which in November will have reached 25 years.
And those players include himself and Scholes, whose retirement will be honoured tomorrow.
"I knew Paul when he was young," said Cantona. "He started here with us. Paul has been a great player. He could play anywhere, he could score goals and make them, defend, tackle. He could do anything.
"But you can replace any player, especially at a club like Manchester United, with a great manager like Ferguson.
"When a special player leaves, you think the club won't win any more. But they still do. I left Manchester United, (Cristiano) Ronaldo left, (Mark) Hughes left, Beckham left, and United are still one of the best clubs in the world."