From one legend to another, Sir Bobby Charlton lauds Eric Cantona’s OT impact…
Eric Cantona was a magical footballer. I loved watching him play. His arrival at United was so sudden that it surprised a lot of people, but what a piece of business it turned out to be. He was a fantastic crowd pleaser, an entertainer and a wonderful influence on the rest of the players.
That influence was especially so at the time when we had the introduction of the young players - the Nevilles, Butt, Scholes and Beckham - and when they came into the team Eric was orchestrating them as well as himself. Cantona conducted football matches. It was the beginning of one of the best periods we've ever had at the club. You never know, had he not come along in 1992/93 then we may not have started winning league titles again. For a period he was the difference between winning and losing.
I loved his whole attitude to the game and the way he used to strut like a peacock. The fans went wild for him and if he made a mistake then they'd let him off because they'd rather see him try something special and fail than someone else do something boring.
Whenever he used to get the ball, he immediately had a picture of what was happening around him and what was going to happen. Sometimes you'd be urging him to hurry up, but he knew exactly what he was doing. He'd be waiting for a player to join him and he'd find them with a perfectly-timed pass, and afterwards you'd be thinking to yourself: 'I'm a fool.'
There was a swagger about him. He was so dramatic - occasionally over-dramatic – that he brought real glamour to any game he played in. You could see that in his goal celebrations, which often seemed to be salutes to all the millions of fans who were cheering him on. What will always stay in my mind about Eric was when he chipped the Sunderland goalkeeper. It was such a difficult goal to score, but he put it in the top corner, off the post, from the 18 yard line, and when it went in he just stood there looking at everyone as if to ask: 'what did you expect?'