Sunday 26 February 2017

United icon Cantona to return for Scholes swansong

Simon Stone

Manchester United icon Eric Cantona is coming back to Old Trafford.

Cantona's return has been confirmed as part of Paul Scholes' testimonial game on August 5, when the Frenchman will coach New York Cosmos, currently bidding to gain admittance to Major League Soccer.

A decent crowd could have been anticipated anyway to mark Scholes' retirement, which was announced in the wake of United's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona last month, and Cantona's presence will fuel interest further.

The charismatic striker is regarded as one of the most significant figures in the club's history, proving to be the catalyst for United's emergence as the dominant side of the Premier League era.

He quit in 1997, having won four titles and two domestic doubles in his five seasons at Old Trafford.

"I wish to congratulate Paul for such an incredible career at Manchester United and I am looking forward to returning to Old Trafford in my new role with the New York Cosmos," said Cantona.

Following David Beckham's return for Gary Neville's testimonial last month, this marks a significant day for United and Scholes.

"This is going to be a big night for me and my family, but one which I intend to enjoy and I will savour every moment," said Scholes.

"I have spent my whole footballing life at Manchester United, so this will be an emotional farewell.

"This club is special in many ways, but the fans are the best and I have always appreciated their support throughout my career. I hope they enjoy the night, especially seeing the boss and Eric battling it out in front of the dugouts."

Alex Ferguson spoke highly of Scholes, who is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest English players of his generation.

"Paul's retirement was typical of the man, low key, he was safe on holiday just so he could avoid any media interviews," said Ferguson.

"However he won't be able to hide away this time and it will be fantastic for the fans to be able to bid farewell to this exceptional footballer.

"Now from one great player to another, Eric Cantona. I am going to relish this touchline showdown, one Gaelic mind to another."

Brazilian legend Pele will be in attendance, too, in his role as Cosmos honorary president. He played for the team during their previous incarnation, when they attracted superstar names from all over the world.

The club eventually crumbled, along with the demise of the North American Soccer League in 1984.

Former Tottenham vice-chairman Paul Kemsley acquired the rights to the Cosmos name in 2009.

He is aiming to secure an MLS franchise by 2013 and is using guest players to fulfil friendlies in order to revive interest in the Cosmos name.

Irish Independent

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