Sir Alex's surprise Cantona revelation
Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he was close to signing Eric Cantona earlier in the Frenchman's career.
The King, who celebrates his birthday on Monday, was available for transfer in 1991 after falling out of favour in his homeland, and the then-Manchester United boss consulted those in the know to back up his instincts about the player.
Although the response was positive, Cantona underwent a trial with Sheffield Wednesday before ending up with Leeds United, helping Howard Wilkinson's team win the last Division One title before the advent of the Premier League.
The missed opportunity only ended up delaying the perfect union at Old Trafford as the Reds pulled off one of the all-time transfer coups in persuading Leeds to part with their enigmatic centre-forward in November 1992.
Eric's arrival proved the catalyst in sparking a period of domestic dominance for the club, and he was a key part of the Double-winning teams of 1994 and 1996, scoring in both FA Cup triumphs.
"I was at a game in Paris, sitting next to Michel Platini and Gerard Houllier," recalled Sir Alex. "Platini says to me – it was the time he [Cantona] was suspended from French football – he says ‘you should go and sign Cantona.’
“I say ‘is he not a problem?’ He says ‘if you recognise him and bring him into the fold, I tell you he’s a great player’. Gerard Houllier endorsed that exactly. I was going home the next day, I go into training and he’s signed for Sheffield Wednesday on loan [trial]. Trevor Francis [was the manager].
“They were training indoors, because the weather was bad. He’s very friendly with Howard Wilkinson, so when his loan was up, Trevor tried to further it and he said no chance. So he phoned Howard and Howard signed him. And they won the league. He won the league for them. There’s no question in my mind.”
When Sir Alex sat down with Cristopher Eccleston
FULL INTERVIEW: Treat yourself by watching all 42 minutes of our fascinating chat with Sir Alex in May…
Sir Alex was speaking in an extended interview with actor and United fan Christopher Eccleston, about the release of 'Never Give In', the documentary about the legendary Scot.
The film airs on Amazon Prime on Saturday after being on general release in cinemas from Thursday onwards.