Eric Cantona's chip against Sunderland in December 1996

Explained: Cantona's Sunderland goal celebration

It’s perhaps the most cherished goal Eric Cantona ever scored for Manchester United.

Reds of a certain age will effortlessly recall it and it has since acquired the bigger audience it deserves, with online videos enabling younger fans not even born in December 1996 to also enjoy it.

There’s the turn on the halfway line, the one-two with Brian McClair, the insouciant chip and, most of all, the disdainful celebration – collar up, chest out, slow turn to allow his adoring Old Trafford faithful to marvel at him from every angle.

But perhaps not everyone knows Eric’s motivation for the memorable way in which he marked that effort against Sunderland, as revealed by the man himself on this week’s episode of UTD Podcast

Eric explains his iconic celebrationVideo

“I never celebrate a goal in the same way, because every goal is different. The energy is different, everything is different,” Eric told the podcast hosts David May, Helen Evans and Sam Homewood.

“But maybe I did this celebration – I don’t know – it’s nice to take the energy of all the fans, you know? And sometimes it’s even more. Maybe it’s because the goalkeeper, he was French.”

Eric had briefly played alongside Sunderland stopper Lionel Perez at Nimes in 1991, helping the young goalkeeper acclimatise to life in Ligue 1.

Five years further down the line and Perez seemed to have forgotten that relationship when the two Frenchmen lined up to play at Old Trafford, as Cantona recalls.

“Before the game, in the tunnel, I came to him to shake his hand and say hello to him because I hadn't seen him since I left [Nimes]. It was the last club I played for in France.

“And he didn’t want to shake my hand. So maybe I scored this goal because of that!”

Video
Eric Cantona celebration
Relive Cantona's wonderful chip against Sunderland, from December 1996.

In the video of the goal, you can just about see the defeated keeper in the background as Cantona raises his arms in the air.

For the briefest of seconds, the eyes of the hunter and the hunted appear to meet - and instantly you know Perez probably regrets the decision to snub his former team-mate.

“That’s the biggest humiliation for a goalkeeper, and this kind of celebration too. Because he’s angry and you don’t run anywhere.

“I just stand there. Look at me.”

You can hear more tales of Eric’s fascinating career on UTD Podcast, available to listen to with Deezer and other podcast providers.

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