The United manager returned to Manchester yesterday, having convinced Cantona that the Football Association did not, after all, regard his appearance in a private practice match last month as a breach of the worldwide suspension imposed for assaulting a Crystal Palace fan in January.
Ferguson, clearly buoyed by a glimmer of light in a close season characterised by dark developments at Old Trafford, said: "Eric is staying. I had a long talk with the boy and he'll be back in training with us on Monday." Maurice Watkins, the United director and lawyer who advised Cantona during his court appearance, said he was "delighted" by the news.
Speculation that the Frenchman had breached the terms of his ban followed the publication in a national newspaper of photographs taken during last month's behind-closed-doors friendly against Rochdale. Cantona interpreted the FA's request for clarification as to the nature of the fixture as evidence that he had no future in the English game.
An FA spokesman last night reiterated that it was satisfied with United's explanation. He added: "We are confident United will not take any action in future which will contravene the ban." Ferguson has cancelled five other private games arranged to help Cantona regain fitness prior to the lifting of his suspension on 1 October.
While the latest act in the Cantona drama reached a happy conclusion, another saga involving one of United's overseas internationals is likely to reach its denouement next week. Robert Reid QC will chair a three-man arbitration committee which will meet on Monday to sort out the proposed transfer of Andrei Kanchelskis from Old Trafford to Everton.
United held up the transfer after Kanchelskis' former club, Shakhtyor Donetsk, asked for a cut of the pounds 5m fee. Everton hope the transfer can be completed before Tuesday's deadline for European competitions.
One United squad member who looks certain to start the season in new colours is Gary Walsh, the reserve goalkeeper, who is expected to sign for Middlesbrough today.
Liverpool are also likely to be in the market for a goalkeeper after David James' deputy, Michael Stensgaard, dislocated his shoulder in a freak accident at home. The 20-year-old Dane, who was signed from Hvidovre for pounds 400,000 last summer, could be out of action for up to six months.
Steve Staunton will also miss the start of the season. The Aston Villa captain will undergo a heel operation next week and will miss up to six weeks of the new campaign, including the Republic of Ireland's European Championship visit to Austria on 6 September.
Andy Goram, the Rangers goalkeeper, has told Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, he would prefer not to risk injury by playing in next week's European Championship qualifier against Greece. Goram, who has recently recovered from a long-term injury, said he does not want to endanger his club career. "It's only a few weeks ago since Craig Brown was saying how happy he was with the performances of Jim Leighton in goal for Scotland. That's fine by me."
Charlie Nicholas is poised to begin his season in new surroundings. Clyde, from the Scottish Second Division, have signed the former Arsenal forward from Celtic. Nicholas, who is expected to make his debut tomorrow against Ayr, has signed a two-year contract which is being under-written by an anonymous Canadian company.
Queen's Park Rangers and Wimbledon have been handed suspended pounds 25,000 fines by the Football Association for their poor disciplinary records last season. Wimbledon's players received 80 cautions between them and six were sent off. Rangers collected four red cards. Burnley, Chester and Fulham all received suspended fines of pounds 10,000.
n Celta Vigo and Seville yesterday lost their appeals against the Spanish League's decision to relegate them from the First to the Third Division for accounting errors.
n Richard Moller Nielsen, who guided Denmark to the 1992 European Championship, will resign as national coach when his current contract ends next July.
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