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"Once we sorted out the initial scenario and then obviously backed Eric to the hilt, to be fair he never sought to say he hadn't done anything wrong and set out what his position was."

- Maurice Watkins, ManUtd.com

01/12/2012 12:24, Report by Adam Marshall
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Watkins' view: Selhurst saga

Former United director Maurice Watkins feels the club can be proud of the way it reacted to Eric Cantona's fracas with a fan in the draw at Crystal Palace in January, 1995.

Watkins was at the eye of the storm as the incident with Matthew Simmons sparked media outrage and a criminal case being brought against the French striker. The lawyer has revealed how events unfolded with the centre-forward ultimately not returning to action until facing Liverpool on 1 October later that year.

"We were onto it straight away," recalled Watkins in an exclusive interview with ManUtd.com. "I didn't see the incident itself although I saw him being sent off and going off. We were all congregated and having a cup of tea afterwards and I was asked to go down to the changing room because there was a police presence.

"It was thought something might happen but, as it was, we managed to get back without any problems as we were flying out of London. Then it all kicked off the following morning. It was agreed I would deal with all the press and media enquiries as there was a particular concern about the possibility of criminal proceedings. So it was best that only one person spoke although we hadn't, at that time, decided what we were going to do.

"Obviously, there were a number of different views being put forward. There was a special meeting called at an Alderley Edge hotel between Sir Roland Smith, myself, Martin Edwards and the manager. It was discussed and also agreed at the meeting that we wanted to support the player and do the right thing by everybody.

"We were in touch with the FA and it was made clear that they were expecting prompt action which I believe we carried out by suspending him for the length of time we did. It was beyond any of the sanctions that could be imposed under his playing contract so it was necessary for us to involve the PFA. They brought their lawyers in and discussed it with Eric and it was agreed that we'd have that suspension of 21 games, which was unprecedented.

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