Cantona set to sue for defamation

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Eric Cantona, the Manchester United striker who allegedly attacked a television reporter at the weekend, is to take legal action against ITN for defamation and the invasion of his privacy.

His solicitor, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, said: "Eric Cantona and his family have been the target for unacceptable abuse by some sections of the media. He has asked me to start legal proceedings."

Cantona's future as a United player brightened a little yesterday when both his club and the Football Association suggested this latest incident will not incur punishment.

The Frenchman, suspended until the end of the season by United for attacking a Crystal Palace supporter at Selhurst Park last month, is alleged to have kicked ITN's Terry Lloyd in the ribs but Ferguson confirmed the fracas, on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe where Cantona and his family are on holiday, will not affect his future at Old Trafford.

"To film, without permission, a man's six-month pregnant wife in her swimsuit sitting on a beach is deplorable," Ferguson said. "Any husband worth his salt would react and this ITN interviewer has got off lightly in my view. I note that the police made ITN give the tape to Cantona."

ITN responded by saying in a statement: "We are surprised that Mr Ferguson, as one of Britain's top football managers, believes that a non-violent action warrants a violent response."

The FA, who on Friday week will bring a disrepute charge against Cantona arising from the Selhurst Park attack, also seems likely to ignore what happened in the Caribbean. Sir Bert Millichip, the FA chairman, described it as "a totally football un-related matter."

He added: "I have great sympathy for people who are looking for a bit of peace. People were chasing him all over the world. They have followed him around to take pictures of him."

Meanwhile Pel, now Brazilian sports minister, also came to Cantona's defence yesterday after meeting his British counterpart, Iain Sproat, in London. "He's a human being like everybody else," he said. "I think he's made a mistake. People try this case like it was the worst case in the world. Of course sport is not to fight, it's to make friends. He has to be punished but not, as I understand a lot of newspapers say, banished from football."

Cantona, who will be questioned by south London police when he returns later this week, may find the meeting mutually beneficial as, according to the Manchester Evening News, his car has been broken into. The front passenger window has been smashed although security staff in the multi- storey car-park where the vehicle is are unsure whether anything has been stolen.

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