Eric Cantona.

The story of Cantona's collar

Tuesday 21 December 2021 10:52

Eric Cantona had a regal presence, supported by his nickname of The King, and his turned-up collar was part of that image.

Sir Alex Ferguson recalled how it was a sign of his confidence that when the Frenchman first arrived, he'd puff out his chest and turn up his collar and prepare to dominate his new arena.

As is the case with most footballers' style choices, it was largely down to superstition.

UTD Podcast: Eric recalls his iconic chip Video

UTD Podcast: Eric recalls his iconic chip

In his unmissable UTD Podcast, King Cantona revealed how a rejected handshake inspired his most famous celebration...

He once revealed it was no gimmick, merely that he played with his collar up during a cold day and, with his side winning that particular match, decided to keep it that way for good luck.

Although other theories abound, including that he made the decision before a Manchester derby in 1993 when feeling a bit of a twinge in his back, this has been the Frenchman's version of events. 

It became an integral part of Cantona's look, there were even newspaper stories that the club had to scrap a proposed new shirt in 1996 because it was collarless, with one even quoting an industry source as suggesting Eric's shirt would have to be different to the others!

Of course, that season's jersey did, indeed, have collars and Eric's was turned up when he guided that perfect chip over Sunderland's Lionel Perez in the December of that year.

The Sunday Mirror's match report started: "'Eric is back' roared 55,000 adoring voices as the Old Trafford hordes hailed a classic Cantona cameo. United's fans saluted General de Goal's genius as he sealed United's biggest win of the season."

Opposing manager Peter Reid commented: "I had the perfect view of that from where I was sitting and I was trying to blow it over the bar. If I wasn't the opposition manager, I might say that goal was worth paying to see."

Sir Alex opted not to speak to the journalists at Old Trafford after that 5-0 win, reportedly sending a message that went along the lines of: "The result should speak for itself. It's Christmas and I'm having a break from youse lot!"

However, our legendary boss did discuss an incident with Neil Ruddock, then of Liverpool, when the centre-back made attempts to interfere with his rival's collar, much to Cantona's anger!

Writing in The Manager's Diary, Sir Alex said: "Ruddock put his hands on the back of Eric's neck and pulled his collar down. He kept doing it, kept annoying Eric and Eric kept turning round. I was screaming at Eric from the side: 'Leave him, ignore him, we're winning so don't get involved'. But the moment Ruddock started trying to take the mickey out of him by pulling down his collar, he'd had enough.

"So he took matters into his own hands and I think the booking was right. I don't think it was as bad as it looked but Eric's feet were off the ground.

"Part of the problem is Eric can't tackle. He couldn't tackle a fish supper! I keep saying to him: 'Why do you try to tackle when you can't?'

"Fortunately, that was the last of it. In fairness to Ruddock, he did not try for retribution. I think he knew he was skating on thin ice anyway."