Manchester United legend Eric Cantona believes the decision to replace Jose Mourinho with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have happened “a long time ago”, with it painful to see the club slipping behind arch-rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Red Devils stumbled out of the blocks in 2018-19 and wobbled their way through to December before the decision was finally taken to make a change in the dugout.
Former favourite Solskjaer has made an immediate impact, collecting 11 wins from 13 games, and Cantona feels those at Old Trafford left it too long to part with a coach who was clearly not delivering.
The United icon told Paddy Power of the impact a managerial switch has made: “I am not surprised at all. Finally, the club made the right decision, a decision I think they should have made a long time ago.”
He added on 1999 Treble winner Solskjaer: “He has got the soul of the club, and you feel that he has been inspired by Alex Ferguson. It’s like Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola in Barcelona – Ole Gunnar is the spiritual son of Alex Ferguson.
“Not all players can become managers, but some of them can, and for me it’s important that at a club like Manchester United you have somebody who has the soul of the club, who understands the club from inside.
“So, today, seeing United, I am so happy.”
While pleased to be witnessing an upturn in fortune for the Red Devils, Cantona admits it has pained him to see the emergence of City and Liverpool over recent years.
He said: “It hurts a lot. But they play wonderful football. But now, if United had started the season 10 games ago, they would be top of the league.
“It was hard, but all big clubs sometimes have bad times. They will be back, but the worst thing was that the identity of the club was missing. Because you can lose, so long as you do it with the right identity and philosophy. Even when they could win, fans were not happy, they want to win but enjoy the game – it’s entertainment.
“Now it seems to be back.”
With the ‘United way’ restored under Solskjaer, what are the chances of another famous face retracing his steps to Old Trafford?
Cantona said when asked if he would ever consider a position with the Red Devils: “I do many things, but if I come back to football it will be at Manchester United.
“Nowhere else – I’m not interested. It’s important that whoever is involved has the soul of the club.”