Cantona: United are the best
Manchester United legend Eric Cantona has warned Manchester City they will never match his former club until they start to spend on their academy as they have done on their first-team squad.
City owner Sheikh Mansour has heavily invested in latest-signings Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic, with the prospect of a hefty bid for Samir Nasri likely to be lodged before the Premier League gets underway in ten days' time.
Yet manager Roberto Mancini complained towards the end of last season at the lack of players with first-team potential in the City academy, which was a remarkable statement given how productive the Blues had previously been at youth level.
And Cantona, back in Manchester to take charge of the New York Cosmos side that will face United in Paul Scholes' testimonial at Old Trafford on Friday, believes it will become a massive handicap unless that famed youth policy is restored to its former glory.
"United are the best team," said Cantona. "I don't know how City work. Maybe they are working on the academy. But today they want to spend millions to buy players to build a team.
"They have been successful because they won the FA Cup, but if they only want to do that, they will not be as strong as Manchester United. United work on the long term, with young talent."
A Cosmos future
And now, 14 years after leaving, so abruptly hardly anyone had the opportunity to say goodbye, Cantona is back, the manager of a team in which huge investment could make them Major League Soccer's 20th team. "I didn't want to come back like any other ex-player," said Cantona.
"I wanted to come back with a special club. We have a lot of things to do. We want to do them well. We want to win things and build things. We want to work on the long term and try to be one of the best teams in the USA and maybe help, through our young talent, the national team to win the World Cup just as Barcelona helped Spain last year. I know all clubs want young players. But we are special, and better than the others."
Cantona's managerial rival will be Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who asked Martin Edwards to throw in the Frenchman's name during a random phone call with then Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby in 1992, resulting in a staggering transfer that changed the face of English football.
"Maybe I will die before Sir Alex," 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."
Players can be replaced
Cantona certainly feels Ferguson will be more difficult to replace than any of the stellar talents who have left United during the Scot's incredible reign, which in November will have reached 25 years. And that number includes himself and Scholes, whose retirement will be honoured on Friday.
"I knew Paul when he was young," said Cantona. "He started here with us. He has been a great player. He could play anywhere, midfield, up front, he could score goals, make them, defend, tackle. He could do anything.
"He is a great player. I am very proud of him. But you can replace any player, especially at a club like Manchester United, with 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."