Tuesday 16 January 2018

United under fire over Mourinho: They should have got Guardiola, insists Cantona

'He's not the right man,' claims Cantona as Blind and Bruce criticise handling of Van Gaal sacking

Manchester United are set to name Jose Mourinho as their new manager in the next 48 hours. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Manchester United are set to name Jose Mourinho as their new manager in the next 48 hours. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Manchester United icon, Eric Cantona. Photo: PA

James Ducker

Manchester United will name Jose Mourinho as their new manager in the next 48 hours but the club were accused of appointing the wrong man yesterday by their iconic former player, Eric Cantona.

Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman, was busy finalising a deal with Mourinho's agent, Jorge Mendes, over lunch in London yesterday afternoon.

An announcement is likely to be made tomorrow and it is thought there was also discussion of Mourinho's transfer plans as United gear up for another summer of heavy spending, with the former Chelsea manager - who will sign a three-year contract - targeting at least four new players.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be the first through the door as United move closer to signing the Sweden striker on a free transfer following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain, but despite a growing sense of excitement among fans, the Manchester club found themselves under fire from various quarters yesterday.

As Steve Bruce criticised the handling of Louis van Gaal's exit as manager and Daley Blind, the United defender, rued the departure of his fellow Dutchman, Cantona suggested his former employers should have focused their efforts on recruiting Pep Guardiola and not Mourinho, whose football he believes will turn off supporters.

Guardiola will begin work as City's new manager a week today and Cantona claimed the current Bayern Munich and former Barcelona head coach would have been a much better fit than the Portuguese in terms of his philosophy and playing style.

City announced the appointment of Guardiola as Manuel Pellegrini’s successor in February after a four-year pursuit of the Catalan but the ex-France striker feels United should have put up a stiffer challenge for his services.

“Guardiola was the one to take,” Cantona said. “He is the spiritual son of Johan Cruyff. I would have loved to have seen Guardiola in Manchester (United). He is the only one to change Manchester. He is in Manchester, but at the wrong one.

“I love (Mourinho’s) personality, I love the passion he has for the game, his humour. He is very intelligent, he demands 100pc 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. He can win with Manchester United but do they expect that type of football, even if they win? I don’t think so.”

Despite being 34 and in the twilight of his career, Ibrahimovic’s arrival would capture the imagination of many fans who feel he could have a Cantona-esque impact at the club as they bid to overcome the disappointment of missing out on the Champions League.

But Mourinho faces competition from City, Chelsea and Barcelona for John Stones, the Everton and England centre-half, while Chelsea are thought to be reluctant to let Nemanja Matic leave, despite a difficult past 12 months for the Serbia midfielder at Stamford Bridge.

While many United players were happy to see the back of Van Gaal, Blind jumped to the defence of his compatriot and hit back at the criticism the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has received over the past six months in particular.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the manager so much,” the United defender said. “I would have liked him to have carried on for longer. A manager at a big club in the Premier League will always be under pressure. But in the case of Van Gaal he has not been treated fairly over the last six months.

“I think a manager with the status of Van Gaal, who has achieved so much in his career, deserved more respect. No matter what was said or written about him as a manager, he never stopped protecting us as players. He has defended us under any kind of circumstances, he was always taking the stick instead of us.”

Yet Blind’s backing for Van Gaal was not echoed by his United and Holland team-mate Memphis Depay, who reacted indifferently to news of the manager’s sacking.

Van Gaal signed Depay from PSV Eindhoven last summer but the winger was omitted by Van Gaal from United’s FA Cup final squad against Crystal Palace on Saturday and faces an uncertain future at the club, despite looking ahead optimistically to Mourinho taking charge.

“A love-hate relationship (with Van Gaal)? I don’t know,” Depay said when asked about their relationship. “And now he leaves, as things go in football, as in life, and you learn and you become stronger.

“If the arrival of Mourinho becomes official, I’ll ask Wesley Sneijder (who played under Mourinho at Inter Milan) what kind of man he is. That’s interesting. It all sounds so, but it is not yet official. No, this (the managerial change) does not affect me. I am happy to be at Manchester United and the board is happy with me. I will succeed because I believe in myself and I work hard.”

News of Mourinho’s imminent arrival broke within minutes of United winning the FA Cup and Bruce believes the situation could have been handled better after the club was also criticised for news of David Moyes’ sacking emerged before the Scot had been formally told.

“Looking back I’m sure they’ll be disappointed again how it’s been handled because that’s not great from a club which always set the highest standards,” the Hull City manager and former United defender said.

Ryan Giggs was due to fly to Dubai on holiday last night amid uncertainty over whether he will accept an offer to join Mourinho’s coaching staff or end his 28-year association with United. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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