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01/12/2012 12:53, Report by Ben Hibbs
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Crerand: Why I defended Eric

time you have that desire to be a winner, and sometimes that manifests itself with an uncompromising determination.

"Look at Wayne Rooney – when he goes in for a tackle I shut my eyes! He’s as bad as Paul Scholes… no, he’s not that bad! Eric had that fiery side too and to a large extent I don’t think there’s any harm in it if, in general, you control it. After that incident Eric did control it, he harnessed it and it made him a better player."

Cantona's misdemeanours enhanced his mystique, though he quite evidently possessed something more than mere ability to play a pretty pass or score important goals. He was the ultimate showman and as such Crerand pays the Frenchman one of the finest compliments he could: "In all my time at Old Trafford, I've never seen any player who had an impact like Eric Cantona did.

"There are legends like Bobby Charlton, Best, Law, who I played with, and modern day greats like Giggs and Scholes, who are part of the fabric of the club – great servants and great players. Unsurpassed in many ways. But Eric just had something extra – it went beyond being a fantastic footballer. It was the charisma, the showmanship: he was the most influential player on the fans I have ever seen at Old Trafford.

"He had a magic about him – it’s something that’s really hard to define – but he had it in spades. When he walked into a room it went quiet. I was very impressed with him when he came over for the unveiling of the manager’s statue. He came into the room when everyone was having a meal prior to going out to the unveiling and he went round every table and shook everyone’s hand, which I thought was lovely."

There is a danger in instances such as that cold January night in 1995 that loyalty blinds your

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