Following an enforced estrangement of nine months, Eric Cantona could vouch for the truism that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The firebrand Frenchman made his long-awaited return from suspension following the incident at Selhurst Park with an emotionally charged return against Liverpool on 1 October, 1995.
Having been severely reprimanded by the Football Association for his Selhurst Park attack on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons, Eric was reunited with his adoring supporters in an early-season meeting with local rivals Liverpool.
He returned to find a bond not only intact, but strengthened by their time apart. Months of ballyhoo preceded the combeback. A Nike ad campaign promised scattergun vengeance, while t-shirts and tricolours bearing Cantona's face lined the stands. Even his father, Albert Cantona, made his first trip to M16.
The fanfare had barely subsided when the game began, and ticker-tape was still fluttering across the turf when Cantona set up Nicky Butt to open the scoring after just over a minute. However, the resounding fervour died down as the game unfolded, as Liverpool's Robbie Fowler made a bold bid to share centre stage with the top-billed Frenchman. Fowler converted two clinical finishes either side of the interval to put Liverpool ahead of a United side whose party had been emphatically crashed.
Inevitably, however, Cantona's influence would significantly sway proceedings. His pass released Ryan Giggs, who was hauled back by Jamie Redknapp inside the Liverpool area. Penalty, deemed David Elleray. One-on-one with David James, but moreover up against his every detractor and punisher,