best in Europe.”
But the highest praise of all is reserved for Mark Hughes, the darling of Old Trafford, whose career has experienced something of a regeneration since Cantona’s arrival. “Even if he doesn’t score that many goals himself in a season, he’s responsible for creating them. It has been a privilege to play with him. If I’ve scored a lot of goals it’s because of Hughes.”
Cantona also acknowledges the influence of Alex Ferguson, with whom he has struck up a relationship of mutual admiration. “Alex Ferguson is a guy who can be your friend, and at the same time he’s someone you have enormous respect for. Everyone respects him. That’s abundantly clear and it’s a phenomenon I’d never seen before either in France or in England. He certainly knows his football, and he has everything he needs to be what he is. It’s not by chance that he’s won everything he’s won.”
Time and time again Cantona, “the loner”, insists it is his colleagues at the club who are responsible for his success. He loves the passion and the commitment, which are a feature of the sport and its supporters here. “In the rest of Europe, the game is played negatively. Playing not to lose. Winning is often seen as the icing on the cake. In England, we play to win. I love the speed of the game here. Playing from goal to goal, keeping the momentum going at all times. There’s beauty in the game here because spontaneity is beautiful.”
His affection definitely extends to us fans. Cantona may sometimes display haughtiness unparalleled in English sport, but when it comes to the supporters he always has time for a photo or an autograph.