Cantona set to stay in Britain

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The Independent Online
Eric Cantona is expected to confirm today his intention to continue his career in English football by signing a new contract with Manchester United.

The announcement that the French international is to commit himself to Old Trafford until at least 1998 is due to be made at a press conference in Manchester. As Cantona might say, it will be the day when the seagulls finally catch the sardine.

The news that will delight every United supporter is a triumph for Alex Ferguson, the United manager, and Martin Edwards, the chairman, who have conducted the delicate negotiations against a backdrop of intense interest in their charismatic player from the Italian club, Internazionale, who were apparently willing to pay him around £30,000 a week.

United are understood to have offered Cantona a deal worth a total of £600,000 a year, which includes a substantial signing-on fee. Jean-Jacques Amorfini, Cantona's agent, said in Paris last night: "We are waiting for a new written proposal to extend Cantona's contract with Manchester United until 1998. If the proposal corresponds to what we have negotiated orally, things could move very quickly. If not, it could take longer."

Cantona's future at Old Trafford had been in serious doubt ever since his kung fu attack on a supporter three months ago. He is currently serving a worldwide ban from the game until 30 September. Earlier this month he started a programme of community service, training young footballers, imposed by a court after his successful appeal against a two-week jail sentence. He was known to be concerned about the reception he would receive from opposing supporters on his return to the game, but it seems that his love affair with English football and United in particular has been the crucial factor in his decision.

Internazionale had offered United £5m for the 28-year-old striker, but Ferguson was anxious to keep him at Old Trafford.

There was no official confirmation from the Manchester club yesterday in advance of today's announcement, although a press conference has been called for 10am today.

The supporters were not so hesitant, Johnny Flax, Manchester's representative on the Football Supporters Association, said: "Cantona has made the right decision.''