Cantona warms to his task

Eric Cantona's community service order could turn out to be the key to his future in this country. Cantona is said to have been touched by the warmth with which he has been received by the children attending the coaching sessions he has been ordered to organise as punishment for attacking a Crystal Palace supporter in January.

The former French captain has told his agent, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, that he would like to stay with Manchester United and revealed this to 10-year-old Michael Sargent, one of the first group of schoolboys he coached.

"I asked Eric if he was staying with United and he said `Yes I hope I will be able to do that. I would really like to stay.' I hope he does."

The United chairman, Martin Edwards, has made it clear that Cantona would be welcome and hopes that he will agree to a three-year extension to his contract.

"We will do our best to keep Eric at Manchester United," Edwards said. "We believe that Inter Milan are interested and there are rumours they have spoken to Monsieur Bertrand and have offered certain terms.

"I am optimistic that he will stay. A lot depends on what Eric wants to do. If he wants to play for United he is certainly going to receive a very good offer from us, but if he feels he has had enough of England or that he is in an impossible position because of the problems he has had, then that is a different matter."

Edwards and Bertrand meet at Old Trafford next Tuesday to continue their talks. Internazionale, meanwhile, have abandoned plans to sign Cantona's club colleague, Paul Ince.