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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'New Cantona' Needs to Produce for Man United

LONDON -- Is this the real Eric Cantona?


The man who helped Manchester United win back-to-back league titles and a rare league and cup double triumph is battling to cut Newcastle's huge standings lead and take his team to a third FA Cup final in a row.


But even the Frenchman's fans are now saying that the "new Cantona" may lack some of the fire and motivation that terrorized opposing defenders.


There are no yellow cards, let alone red ones, these days. The player who was banned for eight months for kicking a fan after his sixth expulsion in English soccer has been a model of good behavior.


But, instead of frightening defenders into mistakes with his bullying tactics, he seems to be giving them an easy time.


"Maybe he doesn't go into as many dangerous areas as before. Maybe he's not involved as much," Manchester United director Bobby Charlton said. "After all, he wants to play. He doesn't want to be left sitting at home again."


Manchester United fans need no reminding that with Cantona on the team, the Reds won two league titles and the FA Cup. Without him for the last four months of last term, they won nothing.


"They say that even bad experiences can be good for you and maybe some good has come of what happened to Eric last year," Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said.


"I've seen him walk away from incidents which might have drawn a different reaction before," Ferguson said. "There has been an inconsistency of performance from him, but it's what you might expect. When you're judging a player there's a difference between a bad game and a flat game."


Cantona has even admitted that he needs the sharp edge to his character to help him perform.


"I play with passion and fire and I have to accept that this fire sometimes does harm," the Frenchman said. "I am aware of harming others. But I cannot be what I am without these other sides of my character."


On Saturday, the new Cantona will be at Elm Park where the Reds take on Division One Reading for a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.


(For schedule, see Scorecard.)