United deal for Cantona

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Manchester United are ready to offer Eric Cantona a lucrative new contract, following speculation linking the Frenchman with a move to Italy's Internazionale. Martin Edwards, United's chairman and chief executive, said yesterday that he had given "no encouragement" to Inter, and had opened negotiations for a new contract with Cantona's agent.

Cantona's appeal against the two-week prison sentence imposed for his attack on a Crystal Palace fan will be heard on Friday. He is also banned from playing worldwide until 30 September, but that has not dampened Inter's interest. United confirmed they received a fax about his availability from the Italian club, who are understood to be offering £5.5m.

"I still have to discuss the Italian interest with the manager and the player," Edwards said. "If Eric is desperate to stay then that is the end of the matter. But if he were sent to prison and felt bitter about life in England, then we would have to talk to him about the situation."

Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said: "The fact that the chairman has opened negotiations with Eric over a new deal tells you how we feel about the player."

Ferguson, meanwhile, is heading for a showdown with Andrei Kanchelskis, after another angry outburst from the Ukranian winger, who was quoted in a Scottish newspaper as saying: "I do not see myself staying at Manchester United in the summer. But I want to stay in British football and what I would like most of all is to sign for Rangers."

Bayern Munich, the German champions, have had their approach for Jrgen Klinsmann turned down. Asked if he could imagine returning to the Bundesliga, Klinsmann said: "I never say never, but I cannot imagine it at the moment. I want to concentrate on the English league, and above all on the chance of reaching the FA Cup final."

The biggest security operation for an international game in Dublin will be mounted for tomorrow's European championship qualifying match between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Over 1,600 police and stewards will be on stand-by to ensure there is no repeat of the violence that led to the abandonment of the Republic's match against England in February.

Undercover detectives will mingle with supporters on the streets of the city before and after the game, in a bid to pinpoint any potential troublemakers. European football's governing body, Uefa, will have observers at the match, which it has labelled a Category A security risk.

An offer in the region of £1.75m, aimed at saving the ailing Third Division club, Gillingham, could soon be on the table. The consortium preparing a takeover package spoke to the Kent club's official receivers yesterday, and are hopeful of making a written offer later in the week.

n Dean Chandler and Lee Bowyer, two Charlton trainees, were last night named as the latest players to be caught in drug tests. Both have tested positive for marijuana and have been suspended by the club, acting in consultation with the Football Association.