It was 26 November 1992. An unremarkable day by any standards in the world, but perhaps the biggest moment in Manchester United’s footballing history since the appointment of Sir Alex Ferguson years earlier.
Eric Cantona, the swashbuckling Frenchman, arrived at Old Trafford from Leeds United and swaggered straight into the United dressing room.
If there were ever a footballer who single-handedly dragged his side to success, then Cantona’s influence on the Red Devils comes as close as it gets. The maverick forward left the side having led them to four Premier League titles in just five years, his name forever etched in the club’s legacy.
Fast forward more than two decades later, and Manchester United once again find themselves battling to stave off mediocrity. A dismal end to the season saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side limp into sixth and face a season away from the glitz and glam of the Champions League.
The Norwegian himself admitted that it could ‘take a long time‘ for the club to get back to competing for honours; but perhaps all it takes is for United to discover their 2019 Eric Cantona.
Step up reported transfer target Youri Tielemans. Not the biggest name in football, nor even someone who’d feature on a dream shopping list for fantasy football managers. But maybe the right man at the right time.
The Belgian has revitalised his career in a short six-month loan deal at Leicester and under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers is back to showing the form that made him such a highly-regarded prospect at Anderlecht.
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Since his arrival on English shores, Tielemans – who parent club Monaco reportedly value at €45million (£39.34m) – has netted three goals and provided a further four in just 13 Premier League appearances. Even with just half a season under his belt, the midfielder found himself just outside the top ten for passes for the Foxes, and became one of the first names on the Leicester team-sheet.
His vision, his composure and eye for goal were all evident from midfield, and at Manchester United he’ll be able to offer that reassuring presence to those alongside him.
Such is Tielemans’ temperament and ability to inspire not only himself but the others around him to better performances, he was handed the captaincy aged just 19 in both legs of Anderlecht’s Europa League last-32 tie against Zenit St Petersburg.
With the future of Paul Pogba uncertain, United are in dire need of a player able to handle the pressure and the limelight to carry the team on his back much like Cantona did. Manchester United may not be the attractive proposition they once were, but for Tielemans, that only sets the stage for him to lead the new Old Trafford era.