Football: Wilkinson is taken to task by Cantona: Manchester United's volatile French striker accuses Leeds manager of 'forcing' him to leave Elland Road. Guy Hodgson reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ERIC CANTONA, the volatile inspiration behind Manchester United's attempt on a domestic treble, would never have left Leeds but for Howard Wilkinson's determinaton to drive him out.

The Elland Road manager, he claims, was so eager for him to leave that he accepted a cut-price offer of pounds 1.1m for the Frenchman. 'He was ready at all costs,' Cantona writes in his autobiography published today, 'even financial, to ensure that I left.'

The man known as the enfant terrible after a series of disputes with French officialdom, left Leeds after helping them win the 1991/92 championship, just nine months after signing for the club. He describes as 'nonsense' any suggestions he departed Elland Road because of an alleged affair with a team-mate's wife.

'I know that he (Wilkinson) forced me to leave,' he writes. 'The curious thing is that it was not the only time he had acted in such a way with players who were well-liked by the supporters. Vinnie Jones and John Sheridan had both previously found themselves in the same uncomfortable position.

'In the 20 matches I played for Leeds (in 1992/93) I managed to score 11 goals. But I began to have difficulty in decoding the language used by my manager. . . One moment he would tell me I owe everything to him, that I am only a Frenchman lost in the English League, at other times he would say without me the team is nothing.'

In the book, Cantona - My Story (Headline, pounds 15.99), he hints that the wanderlust which seen him play for seven clubs may not be sated. 'As long as we stay together. . . We will be able to move mountains,' he writes about his team-mates. 'But no one can tell when or where one's career will end, or what twists and turns it may take.'