Football: United revel in their new theatre of themes: Ferguson reacts to the title with a call for continued hunger as Cantona, Giggs and Robson reveal appetite for more

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The Independent Online
THE MORNING after the Old Trafford party had Eric Cantona talking about sunsets, Alex Ferguson and Bryan Robson talking about new dawns, and Ryan Giggs talking.

Cantona, characteristically, was in reflective mood when asked by L'Equipe about his future plans after winning his second English championship medal in 13 months. 'I don't know,' the 26-year-old Parisian said. 'I've got two months' holiday and a lot of things could happen.

'The sunsets are beautiful everywhere. In the Camargue, in England, in Spain . . . for the moment I feel really great here.

'If I don't feel good tomorrow, I'll leave. But I would have to talk to the club chiefs. I still have three years of my contract to run.' Importantly, for fretful Stretford Enders, Cantona, the nomadic Frenchman, added that he was excited by the prospect of embarking on a European crusade with his current employers.

Cantona, whose awareness of his team-mates' movements was so instrumental in helping bring United the title for the first time since 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' was at the top, knew exactly what was required of him on the park. 'You can play well, make decisive passes, dribble and do other tricks, but if you don't score all that gets forgotten. When they say to you 'if you don't score, you don't play', you don't have a choice.'

Ferguson, the man whose mid-season gamble on Cantona paid off so dramatically at the theatre of dreams, told his players that if they displayed the same hunger that had secured the title anything was possible.

'They've deserved to win the league and now, having opened the door, if they show the same hunger they have shown this year, there's no saying what they can achieve,' the United manager said.

'People are talking about us dominating English football over the next few years. It's a very difficult league to win and all I ask of my players is that they show that hunger.'

Robson, who has never lacked a keen appetite for action, said that he was close to a new deal, keeping him in a red (or black, yellow-and-green or blue) shirt for a further year. The former England captain also spoke of what the title meant to him. 'I finished fourth with West Brom 17 years ago. Since then I've had about 12 years when I've finished in the top six.

'To never have won was frustrating, so it's great that the lads have done it for me this season.'

The youngest lad, Ryan Giggs, a champion at 19, has been as withdrawn in the public gaze as he has been expressive on the field. Yesterday, the Welsh winger who has been wisely shielded by Ferguson, took centre stage. After Blackburn had taken the lead on Monday, Giggs said, 'the crowd went a bit quiet. But luckily I hit the back of the net and got the party going again'. (Giggs's description of the pulse-accelerating moment when he awoke a dead ball is truly a masterpiece of understatement.)

'After that it was the best night of my life. The atmosphere was just brilliant. I don't think I'll ever witness the like again.' If United meet Milan in the European Cup next season, Giggs may have to think again.

After watching his side lose to United, Kenny Dalglish, the Blackburn manager, said: 'United have proved themselves the best, which was expected of them. But I consider our finishing in the top four in our first season to be an even greater achievement. People say we have spent a lot of money but two clubs above us have spent more. Our players have done us proud.'

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