Ferguson pays Cantona a visit

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The Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, who expects to meet Eric Cantona in Paris today, remains confident that the suspended striker will return to the United side, despite asking to leave Old Trafford for the Continent.

United rejected Cantona's transfer request - submitted in response to the Football Association's now-abandoned probe into his appearance in a private friendly against Rochdale last month - and Ferguson was due in the French capital last night. He hopes to persuade his most influential performer to stay in England once a world-wide ban from "all football activity" ends on 1 October.

"I had a chat with Eric yesterday, and then his lawyer appeared and we had a chat with the directors," Ferguson said in an interview with Radio Five Live. "I feel that we've settled him down a bit. The FA thing had got to him, but they're not taking any action against him or the club, so hopefully he'll be playing for us next season."

Ferguson said United wanted clarification from the FA about Cantona's participation in games behind closed doors. He was "unsure" about reports that Cantona's lawyer had issued an ultimatum over an alleged ban on his playing in unofficial matches. However, that issue, rather than the lure of joining Paul Ince in Italy or his wife's supposed desire to leave Britain, was at the root of his unrest.

"Eric's told me it's all about the FA. The important thing is to resolve that one, and if we do that I'm sure he'll play for United. I'm determined about it and I want him in my team." Asked whether United could regain the title if Cantona stayed, he replied: "I'm absolutely certain of that." But if he left? "We'd have to get a really good replacement."

Ferguson admitted he was finding it hard to replace Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis, whose on-off move to Everton was off until "all parties" had agreed. Confirming that he was in the market for a wide-right midfielder, he said: "English clubs aren't going to sell their best players to us. I've looked abroad, though it's a problem getting someone better than I have."

Meanwhile, the president of Internazionale, Massimo Moratti, said that "a sense of fair play and dignity" would prevent the Milan club renewing their bid for Cantona "for the moment". But he added: "If one day Cantona and United decide to part, we could then consider signing him. There's always room at Inter for a champion, and he is one."

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