Living legend Eric Cantona has defended Manchester following recent high profile criticism from current players living here.
Cantona is in town in his role as Director of Football for the recently resurrected New York Cosmos game against United for Paul Scholes’ testimonial on Friday evening.
The recently retired one-club midfielder’s career will be celebrated in the game at Old Trafford, with the Cosmos putting out a guest all-star team including ex-United captain Gary Neville, World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro and Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge.
When asked what he thought of Mario Balotelli’s recent comments, Cantona said: “They don’t like the place? It depends where you come from – if they are from Milan, maybe.”
He also had a question of his own for Balotelli and Tevez.
He asked: “If their city is better, then why did they come?”
Homesick City players aside, he added: “I had a great time in Manchester and it is good to be back. I love the city.”
Cantona said Scholes was a great player for United, but the club will survive.
“I left, Ronaldo left, Hughes left, Beckham left – and still United are one of the best clubs in the world,” he added.
This is Cantona’s return to football, and when the inevitable question of the Manchester United job came up once Sir Alex Ferguson retires, he thought about it with a wry smile before answering.
“Maybe I will die before Ferguson, I don’t know,” he said, to laughter from the assembled media. “He will be more difficult to replace.”
“I am sure he will be on the bench forever. It is his life.”
He was joined by Pele, the Cosmos Honorary President – who Cantona described as the ‘best in the world’.
The 70-year-old Brazilian, who played for the original Cosmos between 1975 and 1977, set out the plan for the new club.
“We want to take the kids off the streets, and the drugs. That is the vision,” he said.
Cantona added: “We are keen to develop young talent in our academy, like Barcelona. Manchester United are a perfect example of how an academy can work.
Cosmos Chairman Paul Kemsley said: “It is a great honour to be the first American team to play at Old Trafford.”