Manchester United: 7 Targets Who Could Be the Next Eric Cantona at Old Trafford

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIIMarch 7, 2012

Manchester United: 7 Targets Who Could Be the Next Eric Cantona at Old Trafford

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    Eric Cantona is, without doubt, one of the greatest Manchester United player that ever lived.

    His arrogance, flair and panache all made him a hated player by opponents, but what made him so great and so devastating to the opposition was that he could back up his talk and his showboating with pure skill and genius.

    It was his self-confidence, his unwavering belief in his own ability and his strong winning mentality that stayed with United long after he retired, and was no doubt a catalyst for the eventual Treble-winning team.

    In five seasons at United, Cantona won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups—without him, United might have won half those honours, if not less.

    Since his retirement, the Red Devils to this day haven't been able to find a true replacement for Cantona.

    And with the likes of Manchester City rising in the Premier League and Real Madrid and FC Barcelona dominating in Europe, United will clearly want a new Eric Cantona at Old Trafford to bring back the glory days once again.

    So here are seven options, with the Cantona trademarks, who might be the next King Eric at United.

Hatem Ben Arfa

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    Now it must be said,Newcastle United talent Hatem Ben Arfa is only on this list at the moment because he said he wants to be the next Eric Cantona. He told the media:

    I would like to conquer England like Cantona did. I see my ambitions the same now as at the start—to become one of the best. 

    Parallels are present between Cantona and Ben Arfa, as both are French, both had a turbulent start to football and both display complete arrogance.

    The 24-year-old is a big flair player and has an incredible, audacious armoury of tricks and skills.

    If he works on his finishing and can provide a few more assists, he could very well be the next Cantona.

    And if he shows signs of that happening, no doubt Manchester United will want to snap him up instantly.

James Rodriguez

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    You get the feeling Manchester United quite enjoy being linked with FC Porto wonderkid James Rodriguez, or at least their media department do anyway.

    The 20-year-old, dubbed the "South American Cristiano Ronaldo," has been a revelation in Liga Sagres this season, scoring 11 goals and making eight assists in 17 matches.

    The Colombia international, like his Portuguese counterpart, possesses the skill, trickery and flair which makes old-school defenders go red with rage, but he also has the finishing ability and eye for an assist to back up his charismatic, "I'm good and I know it" style on the pitch.

    Said to be the successor to Carlos Valderrama, if he continues at his current rate for years to come, he'll much more likely be the successor to Eric Cantona at Old Trafford.

Arjen Robben

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    Manchester United are interested in Arjen Robben, while the player is said to want a move back to the Premier League and could be available for £10 million.

    If all of that is true, expect Robben to be in a United shirt next season.

    And if he is gracing the Old Trafford pitch regularly in the 2012-13 campaign, expect the 28-year-old—who's middle names should be flair, panache and arrogance—to put in some Cantona-esque performances.

Eden Hazard

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    If there's one player who's a safe bet to be the next Eric Cantona, it's Eden Hazard.

    Hazard scores goals, makes assists, takes on players, beats full-backs, dazzles central defenders, and leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.

    He's scored 13 goals and made eight assists this season, a figure which will no doubt rise before the end of the campaign and will improve markedly in the years ahead.

    Whether Manchester United can realistically get him or not is a different story, but Hazard is certainly a contender to the throne of King Eric.

Stevan Jovetic

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    He's gone for shorter hair and added a bit more intimidation to his game and it's certainly helped Stevan Jovetic in the goalscoring department.

    The Montenegro international, 22, has scored 12 goals in Serie A from 21 games this season and is beating goalkeepers from all kinds of angles.

    Linked with a Manchester United move, Jovetic certainly has more potential than most to replicate the impact of the legendary Eric Cantona at Old Trafford, even if he has a somewhat understated style to his play and needs to add more assists to his game.

Oscar Dos Santos Jr

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    Oscar Dos Santos Emboaba Junior (or Oscar for short) has been linked with virtually all teams but Manchester United.

    However, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder is very much a United type of player and could develop into a Brazilian Eric Cantona.

    After all, he plays in a similar position as Cantona, has all the flair and panache and has an equally good penchant for making assists as he does scoring.

    In the 2011 season for Internacional, he scored 13 goals and made 10 assists, while this year in eight games he's scored three and assisted three.

    As soon as he knows fully his own ability, he'll no doubt add that self-belief (or arrogance) to his game that'll enrage defenders and then leave them helpless as he backs it up with goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    A Manchester United legend in his own right, there have been suggestions of a Cristiano Ronaldo return to Old Trafford.

    However, while Ronaldo will be forever remembered in the annals of United, as it stands he won't be on the same platform as Cantona.

    If he returns—and return he very well could—he'll have the chance to put that right and become the true heir to King Eric.

    After all, there's only one place where one can truly say, "arise King Cristiano," and that's at Manchester United.