Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink has announced that scientists employed by owner Roman Abramovich have successfully tested a time machine that will enable them to travel back to 1992 and outbid Manchester United for Leeds United’s Eric Cantona.

Working deep below the East Stand at Stamford Bridge, the team of scientists, recruited from London Imperial College, experimented by going back to 1989 and blocking then-chairman Ken Bates signing goalkeeper Dave Beasant from Newcastle United. When that proved successful, work began on sending a team of executives to Elland Road at the dawn of the Premier League era to negotiate with Leeds for their talismanic forward.

Hiddink said: ‘We’re all delighted at the invention of the time machine, especially as it enables us to stop Manchester United from procuring the one person who more than anyone else set them on the way to domestic and global domination. We’re confident that once Eric gets over the shock at finding himself thrust more than twenty years into the future, he’ll prove to be a great signing for the club’.

Cantona himself seemed less pleased with the deal, telling reporters: ‘Why would I want to leave the League champions for a small club like Chelsea? No offence to Neil Shipperley, but he’s hardly Mark Hughes’.

The controversial Frenchman, who has also spoken of his displeasure at finding out he is nearly fifty and not, as he believed, 26, is expected to be available for selection for Chelsea’s next match, their FA Cup Third Round tie at home to Scunthorpe United on January 10.