“Le Roi”.“Le Dieu”. Or good old – but never, ever, plain old – Eric. Whatever you want to call Monsieur Cantona, the Frenchman’s four-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford are the stuff of legend.
No.7 shirt collar as stiffly upright as if it had been starched, that imperious look, theatrical swagger and poise, Eric Cantona was born to play for Manchester United – and, even better, he was pinched from across the Pennines to do so.
The wandering ‘enfant terrible’ of French football, despite title success with Marseille in 1991 and close on a half-century of caps for his country, Cantona had famously ‘retired’ from the game at
25 when a trial with Sheffield Wednesday alerted the attentions of Leeds United boss Howard Wilkinson, eager to bolster his side’s flagging title fortunes for the 1991/92 run-in. Enough said about that…Astonishingly, given his success in Yorkshire and a Charity Shield hat-trick against Liverpool during the 1992/93 curtain raiser, Sir Alex Ferguson’s enquiry as to whether the mercurial Frenchman might be for sale was met with a nod in December. A £1.2 million deal – no, that’s not a misprint – was promptly done, and Cantona went to work.
The next four-and-a-half seasons would see him stamp his name indelibly on the club’s history, his