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

"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 judgement. But Eric was one of our own and there was no question of sticking by him.

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