On a rare visit to OT in 2006, Eric Cantona sat down for a chat with the official magazine, then known simply as United. Here is part one of the interview…
What does sitting here inside the stadium evoke inside you and do any specific memories come flooding back?
Not especially, just being here is a great feeling and it’s always special to come back. I still remember the excitement of walking out of the players’ tunnel before a match. We would train hard during the week and then step out of the tunnel onto the pitch with lots of ambitions to win the game, never knowing how it would turn out. We shared everything together as a team and also with the fans and we tried to fulfil our ambitions and our dreams as one. When we achieved those ambitions it was always a great, great moment.
Whenever you come back to Manchester do you feel a sense of unfinished business given your early retirement from the game?
I always have a feeling of unfinished business not only in my career but in everything [in my life]. When you win something, you want to win even more. I’ve always had that kind of feeling inside me but one day you have to say now it’s finished and you have to stop. It’s like when you create something, you don’t always know when it’s finished but at some stage you have to say ‘no, now it is finished.’ It’s a shame but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Some people go too far and then say ‘why I didn’t stop sooner?’ So one day you have to take responsibility and say now it’s finished….and that’s what I did.
Do your playing days at United seem like only yesterday or do they seem like a lifetime ago?
They seem like only yesterday because I have to fight against the memory [of them]. Football is so big and intense that if you live with this kind of memory it can seem like your life is finished and you are dead, but I don’t want to be dead. I have many more ambitions in my life and therefore have to fight against all the things that are in my memory. I fight hard to look forward and have new goals every day and I don’t take time to think about all the great moments I enjoyed here. Only when I come back to Old Trafford do I allow myself to open the doors of my memory and think about my time at United.
You said in your interview with MUTV in December 2004 that you’d only come back to United if you felt you had something special to give...
For me United is the biggest club in the world and my greatest moments in football were here. I