The Second Coming - United's new signings are providing a link to the past

The Second Coming - United's new signings are providing a link to the past

Jose Mourinho's summer transfers have brought references to the past, whilst showing glimpses of a bright new future.

Craig Millar

In the summer transfer window, Jose Mourinho brought four new faces to Manchester United. Three of those provide links to legends of days gone by.

If you mention the name Eric in association with Manchester United, then it conjures up only one image. The swaggering, gallic genius, Eric Cantona.

Before the summer if you spoke about a brilliant Swedish striker with United links, then although it may not be as vivid a memory as that of Cantona, most would remember the brief spell the Henrik Larsson enjoyed in United's colours.

Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all bring flashbacks in some way to the two wonderful players that once lit up Old Trafford.

Eric Bailly

With Bailly, it is all in the name. He doesn't compare to Cantona as a player, but he is called Eric. And if someone mentions Eric, quite simply they mean Cantona. Bailly can have a wonderful United career, but he will never be close to the adulation afforded to King Eric.

Yet he has shown enough in his fledgling career to suggest he could become a firm favourite with the United faithful. He is a centre half, so he is not going to be grabbing the headlines with goals too often, but he looks a beast of a player.

Physically imposing, brave and hard in the challenge, he is quick and surprisingly skillful and composed in possession. He is young and raw, but he looks like he could be the nearest thing to a replacement for Nemanja Vidic. He may not oust Cantona in terms of popularity, but he has the potential to become a legend in his own right.

A concern is the injuries that have hampered his bright start, but if he manages to recover and stay fit then he has a very bright future ahead.

Unfortunately for Larsson, it is likely that he will be overshadowed completely by his namesake and his fellow countryman. He only made 13 appearances on loan, with many of those coming off the bench, and netted three goals. His career was coming to the end but he still had a big impact in his short spell, but Mkhitaryan and Zlatan should surpass him.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh - different spelling - Mkhitaryan has had a difficult start to his United career. By his own admission, he has struggled to settle and has not produced enough to warrant a place in the team until recently. When he did get his opportunities, he has taken them.

His ability is frightening. He is pacy, direct and has wonderful vision. His passing and vision is outstanding, and he was instrumental in some wonderful attacking moves. He looks on a different wavelength to most players, he is so clever, and is a joy to watch. He has shown he can finish too.

What has also been impressive is his appetite to work, and it was refreshing that he admitted his own failings. He has knuckled down and after having a run of games, he looked like he was really coming good before a niggling injury has halted his progress. It does not seem serious though and when he resumes playing, he can become a real star and a United great with his talent.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Whilst he does not share either name, he is from the same country as Larsson and the same footballing planet as Cantona. Like Larsson, he arrives at United at the back end of his career, but he looks like he is going to leave like Cantona - revered and loved in equal measure.

Everywhere he has been in his long career, he has left an impact, scored a lorry load of goals, and procured a bag full of trophies. He is quite simply a phenomenon. Many experts thought that this might be too tough a challenge for a 34 year old (now 35), but he is Zlatan. He has embraced it.

His similarities to Cantona are eerie, it is like taking a trip back in time with some of the things he does. He is big, strong and technically brilliant, with an amazing calmness about him in possession. He has the same ultra professional work ethic, and his influence on his team mates is incredible, considering he has only been at the club a number of months.

Cantona only spent five years at United, but helped them win four league titles and two doubles. He was the catalyst for United's dominance in the 90's and 2000's and though Zlatan may only at United two years, he looks like he could have a similar impact.

He has won titles in 11 of the last 12 seasons in three countries with Juve, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan, and PSG and had previously won two Eredivisie titles with Ajax. It is hard to see how he will not inspire those around him in Manchester not to mount a serious challenge to give him his first title in England.

With Paul Pogba, the world's most expensive signing, making up Mourinho's summer quartet, then the future looks bright. In what has been a bit of a low period since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, these players may well shape a bright future for themselves and United. At the same time, they can still provoke a nostalgic doff of the cap to some heroes of the past.