x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Eric Cantona says Mario Balotelli should concentrate on football

MANCHESTER // Eric Cantona has called on Manchester City's disaffected players to concentrate on their careers rather than worry about where they are living.

Mario Balotelli this week echoed Eastlands teammate Carlos Tevez's much publicised discontent at life in Manchester, claiming it is not a great place to live.

Cantona had five years in the city following his shock move from Leeds in 1992, which proved to be the catalyst for Manchester United's two decades at the top.

While he enjoyed his time in the north west of England, Cantona believes where a player lives should not affect what they do on the pitch.

"They don't like the place?" he said. "It depends upon where they come from. If they come from Milan, maybe. Also it depends why they have come.

"I had a great time here and a great time in the city but the most important thing for me was to play for the best club in the world, with the best players in the world.

"I was a professional player. I didn't try to find a city to enjoy it.

"The greatest time you can have is on the pitch."

Fourteen years after leaving United, so abruptly hardly anyone had the opportunity to say goodbye, Cantona is back, now the director of football at New York Cosmos.

Heavy investment is going into the prospective full-time return of the Cosmos franchise, which was originally founded in 1971 before being dissolved in 1985.

Now reformed by a business consortium, the Cosmos are hoping to be named as Major League Soccer's 20th franchise later this year, and their quest begins in earnest with Paul Scholes' testimonial match against United at Old Trafford tomorrow evening.

Cantona's opposite number tomorrow night will be Sir Alex Ferguson, a man he simply cannot see standing down any time soon.

"Maybe I will die before Sir Alex [leaves]," said Cantona. "I am sure he will be on the bench forever. It is his life. He was a good player. He has been a great manager for Manchester United."

Cantona feels Ferguson will be more difficult to replace than any of the stellar talents who have left United during the Scot's reign, including Scholes.

"I knew Paul when he was young," said Cantona. "He is a great player. I am very proud of him. But you can replace any player, especially at a club like Manchester United, [when you have] a great manager like Ferguson.

"When a player leaves, you think the club won't win any more. But they still do. They have a great history and they work a lot every day so any player can be replaced.

"Paul is still a great player. But I left, Cristiano Ronaldo left, Mark Hughes left, David Beckham left, and United are still one of the best clubs in the world."