Match Rewind: Choose your Cantona classic
It's bank holiday weekend here in the UK, and what better way to celebrate than with a new edition of our 'Match Rewind' series?
Three times each week during lockdown, we've been asking you to choose which Manchester United game we should stream in full, and for free, via the ManUtd.com homepage and our Official App.
On each occasion, there's a specific theme, and we're pretty confident our latest category will go down well with many of you.
This Saturday night, Eric Cantona is the object of our affections, with four of the Frenchman's most fabulous outings in Red available for your delectation.
Read on to find out what's on offer. You won't be disappointed...
MAN CITY 2 UNITED 3 (1993/94)
If you want an understanding of just how important Eric Cantona was to the Manchester United team of 1992-94, then look no further than this game. The Reds had been dumped out of Europe by Galatasaray just a few days beforehand, with the Frenchman sent off. And when City took a shock 2-0 lead during the first half, Maine Road was cock-a-hoop, as the Blues sniffed a first derby win of the decade.
But Cantona had inspired United to a first title in 26 years the season before; he wasn't about to be kicked off stride by the piffling issue of a Manchester derby. First, he latched onto Michel Vonk's careless attempted header back to City goalkeeper Tony Coton. Then he orchestrated a sublime team move for the second, which culminated in a glorious low cross from Ryan Giggs which found the King striding in at the back post to tap home. 2-2. The coup de grace was applied just three minutes from the end, when Roy Keane steamed on to Denis Irwin's cross to knock in the winner. But the comeback had been inspired by one man and one man alone.
UNITED 5 MAN CITY 0 (1994/95)
It's fair to say Cantona loved playing against the Blues. He only failed to score in one of his seven derby appearances, netting eight against City in total. So it's perhaps unsurprising that he was at the very heart of our greatest victory over the neighbours during the 1990s.
This glorious mission to avenge the 5-1 defeat at Maine Road in 1989 began with a classic piece of Cantona ingenuity. His first touch when latching onto Andrei Kanchelskis's long ball from the right was simply divine – cushioning the ball on the run, with his right foot raised to knee height – and his left-footed finish equally emphatic. Then he set about repaying his debt to the Ukrainian. The lightning-quick right-winger netted a hat-trick, with all of his goals assisted by Eric, on a night where Cantona's all-seeing creative eye could easily have led to eight or nine for United. With Mark Hughes adding United's fourth just before Kanchelskis completed his own individual feat, this was an Old Trafford night to truly savour.
LIVERPOOL 0 UNITED 1 (1995/96)
Cantona's infamous nine-month ban during 1995 left him close to exiting the club, but Alex Ferguson convinced him to stay on, and what rewards the pair would plunder as a result. Eric near-enough dragged United to the Premier League title upon his return, and then United had the chance to become the first side in English football history to win the Double for a second time.
In their way stood Liverpool. But in one of the tightest cup finals in recent decades, Cantona again proved the difference, completing his own tale of personal redemption with a dramatic winner in the dying minutes. He became the first man from outside the United Kingdom and Ireland to lift the FA Cup – captaining in Steve Bruce's absence – capping one of the most magical individual seasons in English football history.
UNITED 5 SUNDERLAND 0 (1996/97)
The following season would be Eric's final one as a professional footballer. United won the title again, but our exit from Europe at the semi-final stage hit him hard. But there was still time for 15 goals, including two in this 5-0 romp over Sunderland in December 1996, which would contain one of the most famous moments in his Old Trafford career.
A first-half penalty had secured his first Premier League goal for three months and given United a healthy 2-0 lead at half-time, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it three soon after the break with a long solo run to goal. Nicky Butt's header stretched the scoreline to 4-0 before the hour mark, but the game's standout move came just over 10 minutes from the end. Cantona picked the ball up just inside the Black Cats' half and began a jinking, dainty run towards goal. A quick interchange with Brian McClair gave him a sight of goal, and our legendary no.7 then decided to dink the most delicate chip over his compatriot Lionel Perez in the Sunderland goal. The ball seemed to hang in the air for an age, before clipping the top of Perez's right-hand post and finding the net. The stadium erupted, while Cantona simply stood there, basking in the applause, performing a non-celebration that had all the laconic cool of Hollywood's great movie stars.
HOW TO VOTE
You can select which of the four matches you want to see by voting in our Match Rewind live blog.
The vote closes at 11:00 BST on Saturday (23 May) and we’ll show the winning game in full, and for free, on the Official App and ManUtd.com at 19:00 BST later that evening.
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