Our favourite Eric Cantona memories
Eric Cantona’s Manchester United record reads as follows: 185 appearances, 82 goals, six major trophies.
It’s an impressive haul but, of course, statistics can never even come close to reflecting the hundreds upon hundreds of personal recollections supporters around the world have of our legendary Frenchman.
To accompany the release of Cantona’s UTD Podcast, we asked some of the members of the ManUtd.com editorial team for their favourite Eric moment.
Here’s what they came up with…
Cantona: I have no regretsVideo
ADAM MARSHALL, CLUB JOURNALIST
“I always used to say when Eric was in his pomp that he would do something in every single game that was worth the admission fee alone. Whether it was a flick, trick, masterful control or glorious pass, there was so much to enjoy besides the goals. If it’s too obvious to say witnessing the 1996 FA Cup final from the stands was a clear personal highlight, there was something particularly special about his return to Elland Road in 1996. Unusually, he’d missed a penalty - one of only two failures from the spot in competitive football for United - and had to face an inevitable barrage of abuse from the fans who once adored him. With the Reds 3-0 up, it mattered little in the context of the game when he guided the ball into Nigel Martyn’s net late on but the way he celebrated, with all of his arrogance and showmanship, directly in front of the angry home supporters, just summed up his attitude and the belief he would always have the last laugh.”
IAN McLEISH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
“I didn’t make it to the 1996 final, but, due to a prior engagement, had to settle for watching it in a pub on my own, miles from home, somewhere deep in the Midlands. No-one in there was all that invested in the match, so when the ball flew past David James and billowed in the Wembley net with four minutes to go, Eric sealing a legendary Double Double in the most dramatic manner against our fiercest rivals, I had to slightly temper my emotions. Not easy under the circumstances. But on a long train journey later that night, I was inspired to pen a song in tribute – to the tune of the Pulp hit Disco 2000 – entitled Eric 2000. Clearing out my loft a couple of months ago, I found the lyrics to this chant that had been jubilantly (and, let’s be honest, drunkenly) scrawled on a piece of paper on that train journey 24 years ago. While the majority of the four verses and chorus are far too embarrassing to recount here, I can still remember the opening line: ‘Oh we were born within an hour of each other, you always said seagulls would follow the trawler, your name was Cantona, Cantona… you know it always suited ya.’ It never did catch on...”
JOE GANLEY, CLUB JOURNALIST
“Choosing a favourite Eric moment is like choosing what to have for tea, or what piece of music to listen to. What frame of mind are you in? What will awaken those dormant senses? For there is a Cantona contribution to suit almost every emotion, from violent rage to blissed-out euphoria. Countless flickerings of genius must be considered – the time he hit the bar at Stamford Bridge from 40 yards out while trying to lob Dmitri Kharine (with his back to goal); a litany of backheels and sorcerous passes. As you can probably tell, I’m already starting to get quite carried away. So I’ll simply choose the goal that, to me, best embodies the effect Cantona had. A tap-in against Manchester City in 1993. United are 2-1 down and he’s already scored once. It starts with him nonchalantly juggling the ball in midfield and ends with him clipping home Ryan Giggs’s sublime first-time pass at the back post, after a slick team move. Because, for all the amazing bits of skill and imagination, the Frenchman’s greatest feat was to inspire and liberate everyone else: his team-mates, the club and even us, the supporters.”
SAM CARNEY, CLUB JOURNALIST
“Unfortunately, I’m a touch too young to remember seeing Eric in the flesh, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t feasted on my fair share of VHS tapes and YouTube clips of the Frenchman in his prime. Unlike the others, I’m not going to select a goal as my most memorable Cantona moment. Instead, I’d like to put forward arguably one of the finest one-twos ever played. The Reds are leading Spurs by a goal to nil when Eric receives possession from Denis Irwin in midfield. Facing the touchline, and with barely a glance forward at his attacking options, our no.7 insouciantly flicks the ball round the corner, over the mass of white-shirted defenders and perfectly into the path of the advancing Irwin to score. The spin Eric manages to impart is incredible; it’s almost like watching a snooker player manipulate the ball around the table!”
PAUL DAVIES, UNITED REVIEW EDITOR
“One-nil to United, Cantona. That seemed to be the story of the second half of the ‘kids’ winning the Double-Double in 1995/96 – the King repeatedly providing the inspiration when we needed it most. Peter Schmeichel was producing magic of his own, but it was hard to ignore the six times in the final 20 games of the ultimately glorious campaign that ‘Mon Dieu’, Footballer of the Year in-waiting, added to his legend with a match-winning goal. The first of his magnificent half dozen winners had come at West Ham in January, the last famously adding the FA Cup to the league title against Liverpool at Wembley, but it was his crucial tide-turning strike at Newcastle in March that remains my fondest memory of King Eric. Battered for 45 minutes, with Schmiechel keeping us in it, Cantona was in the right place at the right time to volley in a Phil Neville cross from our first real chance of the night to score the game’s only goal. Our no.7 screamed to the heavens in delight and 2,000 of us in one tiny corner of St James’ Park joined in. Magic. Merci et bonne nuit!”