"The cameras tracked his every move from the tunnel to out on the pitch as the fans worshipped their idol in a manner rarely seen before and since."

More: 12 Days of Cantona | Kanchelskis praises Cantona

02/12/2012 10:38, Report by Adam Marshall
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The return of the King

There was a strong belief at the time that Inter Milan would sign United's wayward genius. Esteemed journalist Brian Glanville commented in The Sunday People: "If United can keep Internazionale's hands off Cantona until the Italian transfer window closes in November, then he'd probably remain for the rest of the season. Though who knows how many games he'd be eligible to play?

"My own feeling remains that United would do best to let their rolling stone roll on, not simply because he's bound to face provocation by opposing fans and could always explode, but because his whole brilliant, tempestuous career has been one of brief encounters with his various clubs."

The manager reportedly scuppered Sky Sports' plans to show the Frenchman pulling on his shirt in the dressing room for the first time since that fateful night in South London. Nonetheless, the cameras tracked his every move from the tunnel to out on the pitch as the fans worshipped their idol in a manner rarely seen before and since.

Liverpool were only a point behind and had designs on the title themselves, even if Newcastle were still everybody's favourites for the crown. Paul Wilson summed the situation up in The Observer thus:  "Liverpool are looking ominously threatening again, with a young team which appears capable of greatness if Roy Evans can keep it together. United are clearly in transition, experimenting with young players who may take another couple of seasons to fully mature."  

What followed from the first whistle was simply unbelievable. In only the 67th second, United drew first blood against the biggest of rivals with Cantona inevitably involved in teeing up Nicky Butt's opener. Robbie Fowler's two-goal salvo looked to be earning him the mantle of party-pooper extraordinaire before the main man took centre stage once again with 20 minutes left.

Ryan Giggs was flattened by Jamie Redknapp and David Elleray's decision to point to the spot allowed Cantona to nervelessly beat David James and celebrate in front of his adoring public. The mixture of relief and elation was obvious from the returning hero. "This was a moment of gladness not madness," commented the Daily Mail's Alan Fraser. "A moment for celebrations not recriminations. Here was the smiling face of the man from the moon. The dark side will be seen soon enough."

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