Eric Cantona has warned of "problems" ahead for Manchester United when "Gandhi-like" Alex Ferguson walks away from Old Trafford and leaves the Glazer family without the club’s driving force.
Cantona, who accepted the role of Director of Soccer at the newly-reformed New York Cosmos last month, is credited with inspiring United’s rise to prominence under Ferguson in the early-1990s by helping end the club’s 26-year wait for the league title in 1992-93.
The Frenchman fears that Manchester United’s fate post-Ferguson is a concern, however, due to his huge influence on the club.
And speaking to the New York Times, Cantona insisted Ferguson is crucial to United when asked whether he is staying away from the club until the Glazers are no longer the owners.
Cantona said: “All I will say is that I think Ferguson will stay as the manager, after that, there will be more problems. Today, he is like Gandhi on the game side. With Manchester, I prefer to say, to think, to realise that Ferguson is a kind of genius.
“He had so many different generations of players now. He’s 70 (later this year) and works with players 18 years old, but adapts himself to all generations.
“This one is especially different. With [Dimitar] Berbatov, he worked hard and waited because he knew he had a great player.
“Ferguson takes strong personalities and works with them psychologically. It is very important. It worked for me, 100pc. It was for the team. I accepted everything because he gave me freedom on the pitch.
“He gave me the No. 7 shirt and it became important to me, though I might not have realised its importance in the beginning.
“I never felt the pressure. He had a kind of confidence in me to give me the No. 7. It was an honour.”
Cantona, meanwhile, has claimed that English football is now paying the price of having too many foreign players in the Premier League.
The former France striker was one of only a handful of overseas players in England’s top flight at the start of the Premier League in 1992, but he believes the subsequent flood has not helped English football.
He said: “When I first went to England I spent a week on trial with Sheffield Wednesday. I thought I was there to sign a contract, but after a week on trial with Wednesday they asked me to stay for one more week.
“I mean, I had already played for France, how can you imagine playing for France and having to stay on trial with Wednesday?
“In this time, no one knows French players and no one cared. I don’t think that people realise how it was in that time for a foreigner in England.
“English football at the time thought it didn’t need foreign players. It was a kind of arrogance.
“But the worst thing is to one day realise that maybe you need foreign players to succeed.
“Now I think there are too many, it’s the opposite. Too many foreign players in the clubs, and I think the clubs should work for the national team.
“With me and the Cosmos, we work hard with the academies working for the club and for the national team.