Eric Cantona

Manchester United

Zlatan: “If Cantona was King of Manchester, I’ll be God of Manchester”

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the King God of one liners.

Ibrahimovic, 34, is already becoming a cult figure at Manchester United before he’s even kicked a ball for the Red Devils.

[ MORE: UEFA releases top player list ]

The Swedish striker has signed a one-year contract to play for Jose Mourinho’s side during the 2016-17 season and he is bringing his well documented self-confidence with him to Old Trafford.

Clearly.

Manchester United legend Eric Cantona was from the same mold as Zlatan, with the talismanic French striker speaking his mind and having plenty of controversial moments on and off the pitch.

Cantona’s arrival at United in a small money move from Leeds United was also the catalyst for an era of dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson as he was deemed the final piece of Fergie’s jigsaw with his swaggering panache and x-factor on the ball. Again, does he sound like someone else?

To this day Cantona’s name is still sung by United’s fans and he is referred to as “King Eric” by their supporters.

However, Cantona recently told the media that he was happy to see Zlatan arrive at United and he could become the Prince.

Quoted by Swedish paper Aftonbladet, Ibrahimovic had the following to say about those comments from the eccentric Frenchman.

“I admire Cantona and I heard what he said,” Ibrahimovic said.  “But I won’t be King of Manchester. I will be God of Manchester.”

If Zlatan has half the impact that Cantona did, he will go down in folklore as another eccentric showman who delivered the goods when United needed it most.

Let’s see if Zlatan can knock Cantona off his perch at United. With 392 goals in 677 total club appearances, Zlatan has played for the world’s biggest clubs and prospered.

Now he has to drag United back to the elite of England and Europe.

If he does, he could be mentioned somewhere close to Cantona in United folklore but can anybody really overtake King Eric in the hearts of United’s fans?

Benzema says race, not sex-tape scandal, reason for his EURO 2016 exclusion

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PARIS (AP) Karim Benzema has accused Didier Deschamps of giving in to pressure from racists when the France coach decided not to include him in the squad for the European Championship.

[ MORE: All the latest EURO 2016 news ]

In an interview with Spanish sports newspaper Marca published Wednesday, Benzema said he does not believe that Deschamps is a racist, but that he “bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France.”

Deschamps has been a long-time supporter of Benzema, who has been suspended from the national team because of his involvement in an extortion scam over a sex tape involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

“I would have liked to play for my country, but unfortunately that’s impossible,” said Benzema, who is of Algerian descent. “Missing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a setback, but the European Championship at home is even harder. This is one of the biggest disappointments I have had, without a doubt.”

[ MORE: Deschamps names star-filled squad for EURO 2016 ]

This latest off-the-field controversy is unlikely to improve Benzema’s already tarnished image in his own country. France’s junior minister for sports, Thierry Braillard, said on Twitter that Benzema’s statement is “unjustified and unacceptable. Total support to FFF (French football federation) and Didier Deschamps.”

Benzema’s comments echoed those of former France international Eric Cantona, who said last week that Deschamps might have left out Benzema and Nice winger Hatem Ben Arfa on racial grounds.

Ben Arfa – whose father is a former Tunisia international – scored 17 goals in 33 French league matches this season but was not selected in Deschamps’ group of players for the tournament starting in France on June 10.

Deschamps had many offensive options at his disposal and picked six attacking players, including Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac.

[ MORE: Zlatan is really enjoying the speculation over his next club

“Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player,” Cantona told the Guardian newspaper. “But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America. So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.”

Deschamps’ lawyer said he will sue Cantona for his comments.

Benzema, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid last week, said the political context in France, where the far right has been gaining political support over the past five years, played against him.

France’s far right, anti-immigrant National Front is increasingly popular under leader Marine Le Pen, who has brought it toward the political mainstream – and who is expected to make it into the presidential election runoff next year. The party was the top vote-getter in regional and European elections last year, but maneuvering by traditional parties kept it from winning any governorships, and may keep Le Pen from the presidency.

In addition to its core anti-immigration message, the party rails against what it calls the “Islamization” of France and wants France out of the euro and the European Union – though one of its major pulpits is the European Parliament, where it’s part of a far right bloc.

[ MORE: Payet and … Milner(?!) … EURO’s most in-form players ]

“You have to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections,” Benzema said.

Earlier this year, French football federation president Noel Le Graet spoke of his shock at the amount of racist hate mail he received telling him not to select Benzema.

Speaking to reporters from Austria, where the France squad is preparing for Euro 2016, Le Graet insisted Benzema has not been suspended for life.

“We’ll do without him during Euro 2016, then we’ll see,” Le Graet said. “I like him and I did not change my mind. He got a bit carried away, I’d rather he were a bit more friendly, but I won’t make further comment on the issue.”

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international matches, also missed the 2010 World Cup. Former France coach Raymond Domenech left him out of his squad in the wake of another scandal, when Benzema and teammate Franck Ribery were handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute. Both were acquitted.

“France is going to realize that it has been unfair to me,” Benzema said.

Cantona wants Guardiola, not Mourinho, as Man United’s manager

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Eric Cantona will cause quite a stir with these comments.

The eccentric Frenchman is a Manchester United legend so, naturally, whenever he says anything about the Red Devils people stand up and take notice.

[ MORE: Mourinho in talks with United ]   

Less than 24 hours after Louis Van Gaal was out as United’s manager, Cantona (who turned 50 today) has been speaking about the possibility of Jose Mourinho taking charge at Old Trafford.

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In true Cantona fashion he is a fan, but he’s not really a fan. What else did you expect from the man who said: “When the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will fall into the ocean.”

[ MORE: Conte slams MLS after leaving Giovinco, Pirlo out of Italy squad ]

Anyway, here’s what “King Eric” had to say about Mourinho in a lengthy chat with The Guardian:

“I love Jose Mourinho, but in terms of the type of football he plays I don’t think he is Manchester United,” Cantona said. “I love his personality, I love the passion he has for the game, his humor. 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. He can win with Manchester United. But do they expect that type of football, even if they win? I don’t think so.

“Guardiola was the one to take. 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.”

The Frenchman was also asked if he would become manager of United one day if they asked him? Here’s his playful answer.

“I do many things and I’m very happy. But if they asked me to become the manager of Manchester United, I would,” Cantona said. “Because Guardiola is in Manchester City and they want someone to win things with wonderful football? It’s me.”

Cantona so often speaks season in a roundabout way and it is hard to argue with his assertion that Guardiola would’ve been United’s preferred choice over Mourinho.

Look at the legacy Guardiola has left behind at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Sure, he didn’t have to massively rebuild the entire squad like the new United manager is going to have to do, but he arguably improved both teams (okay, Bayern’s failure in the UCL muddies that argument slightly but they improved in many ways under Pep) and has left them in extremely strong positions.

Mourinho has left shipwrecks behind at Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid in the past and he is all about the short-term. He gets results but Cantona hit the nail on the head, his style of play may not win over United’s fans. However, they just want to win and even Cantona, one of the greatest artists the game has ever seen, knows how important that is.

Eric Cantona suing New York Cosmos for $1 million

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Eric Cantona was fired from his position with the New York Cosmos after he was arrested for punching a photographer at a London pub last year.

Now, he wants the club to pay him nearly $1 million.

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The former Manchester United and France striker claims he is owed $961,290, one year’s salary, that the club never paid him.

The lawsuit was filed in a New York City federal court, claiming unpaid wages and four-percent equity interest in the club.

Cantona was hired by the Cosmos in 2011 as director of soccer as the club hoped to grow into a Major League Soccer franchise.

[ RELATED: Losing David de Gea would be a colossal failure for Manchester United ]

However, the Cosmos continue to play in the NASL, America’s second-tier of soccer, as New York City FC entered MLS as New York’s new franchise.

The Cosmos are currently in first place in the NASL, unbeaten through seven matches with four wins and three draws.

What’s the proper punishment for Pardew after “headbutt” of Hull player David Meyler?

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Alan Pardew’s confrontation with Hull’s David Meyler represents many things. Unfortunately for the Newcastle manager, the most striking thing about what many are calling a headbutt is that for those who’ve watched him this year, it isn’t all that surprising.

Here’s the video. It doesn’t fit your standard definition of a headbutt, but in no way does that condone Pardew’s actions in going headfirst toward the Hull player. No place for it in life, let alone a Premier League pitch.

The problem here is that it isn’t an isolated incident, even if the only matches considered are during his time at Newcastle. In fact, he seems to be escalating. The manager pushed a referee during a match against Tottenham last year and now he’s one-upped that ridiculous moment by going after a player.

And there was his calling of Manchester City manager by a profane label earlier this season that caused him to seek penance from his daughters. Problem is, he didn’t need to return home to know his error this time. Pardew was out for his post game interview earlier than anyone expected and couldn’t get his sorries out fast enough.

Some saw his staying out of the fray versus Southampton as a growth moment, but clearly what lies in Pardew was lying in wait.

Pardew is the second longest-tenured club manager in the Premier League and the sixth-longest in the Football League. Perhaps his longevity is earning him more time from the Newcastle United higher-ups, who opted to impose a strong fine and said no more discipline is coming.

But what should the FA do? Frankly, they need to mandate disciplinary classes and evaluations while also suspending him for the duration of the season. That’s a 10-match ban, which would be harsher than Nicolas Anelka’s deemed anti-Semitic gesture (five matches) but not quite nine months a la Eric Cantona’s kung-fu kick of a supporter.

So how many matches feels right to you? Newcastle’s Joey Barton got 12 for an elbow, kick and headbutt-attempt in one swoop against Man City (taking place under Pardew, for those who want to draw a connection, and it’s no surprise that Barton has weighed in on the matter). Paolo Di Canio got 11 for pushing over a referee. Luis Suarez received a 10-match ban for a bite and another eight after the Patrice Evra racial abuse incident.

Given all those things, should Pardew’s actions be considered worse? Does the fact that his actions involve a player make it extraordinarily poor, relative to the aforementioned bans?

In any event, a strong stance is needed. I don’t think you can fire or expel him, but whenever there’s a unique act of poor form on the pitch, there has to be a message that punishment will be severe. The rest of the season seems about right to me.