Football: Cantona displays his dark side: David McKinney sees Manchester United's moody maestro again shown the red card

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The Independent Online
THE chant in football grounds throughout the country this season might well change to 'Ooh Aah early bath]' A pleasant stroll on the lawn of Ibrox could not anaesthetise the growling voices of injustice inside the head of Eric Cantona, who may miss the opening three matches of the season after being shown the red card against Rangers as Manchester United contested the third / fourth place play-off match of the two-day four-club tournament.

As in the past, the affair started inauspiciously, with the Frenchman being booked for contesting a decision by the referee. His frustration unappeased, he then made his point with his boots rather than his mouth - in a two-footed tackle which fortunately failed to make contact with Steven Pressley, the Rangers defender.

Cantona's ability has never been in question. His brilliance had quietened the incessant booing of his team by the Ibrox crowd on Friday night, when an impish flick sent the ball over Pavel Srnicek, the Newcastle goalkeeper, and on to the bar.

Alex Ferguson, the United manager, gave a Gallic shrug as he tried to fathom the mentality of the Frenchman who can captivate an audience with his cheek and chic, yet can bring calamity upon himself on a whim.

'When he feels an injustice has been done, he feels he has to prove it to the whole world,' Ferguson sighed. 'He can't control his temper but that's part of his temperament. You either love him or hate him, but I'm glad we've got him.'

Ferguson, a former Rangers player, hit out at the supporters who barracked his side throughout their two games, adding: 'The fans here simply don't match up to the facilities. Their reaction was both stupid and pointless, and could scare off other big clubs coming here for tournaments.'

United finished fourth after a penalty defeat by Newcastle and a David May own goal gave Rangers a 1-0 win. Ferguson will worry more about injuries to Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.

The tournament winners were Sampdoria, who scored seven goals in two games despite being together for just 11 days. They outplayed both Rangers and Newcastle, whose European prospects appear slim on the evidence of this tournament. But Kevin Keegan, whose side was beaten 3-1 in the final after overcoming Manchester United on penalties, refused to read too much into the exercise. 'I'd sooner we learned a lesson here than when our European matches start. The season is still two weeks away and there were tackles today I would expect us to win in a competitive match.

'It was a good experience for my players and I'm glad we came.'

The experience for Rangers might cause problems for their manager, Walter Smith, with a European Cup tie against AEK Athens on Wednesday. His side conceded a two-goal lead against Sampdoria in losing 4-2, and although they beat Manchester United both sides were so far from full strength as to make the game meaningless.

Smith has an abundance of attacking options, with Brian Laudrup showing promise but, the performance of his defence will be giving him sleepless nights.