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Eric Cantona.

Biography

“Le Roi”.“Le Dieu”. Or good old – but never, ever, plain old – Eric. Whatever you want to call Monsieur Cantona, the Frenchman’s four-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford are the stuff of legend.

No.7 shirt collar as stiffly upright as if it had been starched, that imperious look, theatrical swagger and poise, Eric Cantona was born to play for Manchester United – and, even better, he was pinched from across the Pennines to do so. The wandering ‘enfant terrible’ of French football, despite title success with Marseille in 1991 and close on a half-century of caps for his country, Cantona had famously ‘retired’ from the game at 25 when a trial with Sheffield Wednesday alerted the attentions of Leeds United boss Howard Wilkinson, eager to bolster his side’s flagging title fortunes for the 1991/92 run-in. Enough said about that…Astonishingly, given his success in Yorkshire and a Charity Shield hat-trick against Liverpool during the 1992/93 curtain raiser, Sir Alex Ferguson’s enquiry as to whether the mercurial Frenchman might be for sale was met with a nod in December. A £1.2 million deal – no, that’s not a misprint – was promptly done, and Cantona went to work. The next four-and-a-half seasons would see him stamp his name indelibly on the club’s history, his heart and soul seemingly in tandem with it: his prophetic pronouncements, his pure, well, Frenchness, finding a spiritual home on the turf where George Best had strutted his stuff so majestically two decades earlier. The missing piece in the long-awaited championship jigsaw, Cantona’s nine goals in 22 league games helped bring home the inaugural Premiership trophy of 1992/93. With his probing presence, United would fail to win the trophy just once in the following four campaigns, Cantona leading scorer in two and second in the other. It wasn’t just his technical ability that fired the imagination, it was his talismanic qualities. He led by example, defiant, never giving in. It was a three-way relationship between player, team-mate and fans – if he thought it was possible, so did you. When the FA threw the book at him with a nine-month ban in the 1994/95 season following his infamous Kung-Fu spat with a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park, Cantona retained his dignity and did his 120 hours’ community service with no complaints. And of course, he scored on his return – against the old enemy Liverpool in October, netting a penalty to salvage a point at Old Trafford. With Cantona orchestrating the talents of a young David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, and Roy Keane in his pomp as midfield general, United proved irresistible in 1995/96. Cantona led the way with 19 goals in all competitions, one of four men to reach double figures. He scored in six consecutive Premiership games through March and April as United faced down the faltering challenge of Newcastle United to take the title. And it was Cantona again, firing through a crowd scene at Wembley, to see off Liverpool in the FA Cup final to complete a second Double in three seasons. That season was the pinnacle of his time at Old Trafford. At the end of the 1996/97, another title in the bag, but with the disappointment of a European semi-final exit proving a tough cross to bear, he exited stage left. His deeds burn brightly and will never fade. Vive la resistance!

Read Less About Eric Cantona
  • Position

    Forward

  • Country

    France

  • Date of birth

  • Joined

  • United debut

    v Man City (H) League

  • Left United

Latest

Eric Cantona poses with the Premiership trophy.
#MUTrivia
says

Eric Cantona helped United win four of the first five Premier League titles following its inception in 1992.

Eric Cantona

Eric returns as Soccer Aid raises £5.5m for Unicef Article

Eric Cantona was back on the pitch at Old Trafford as England won the Soccer Aid for Unicef match in dramatic fashion.

Wes Brown

When Wes Brown lost Eric Cantona's boots Article

Former United defender Wes Brown recalls the time he had to tell iconic Eric his boots were missing.

Eric Cantona runs with the ball.
Wes Brown says

“I was a teenager at the time when Eric joined and we were all in awe of him. We’d play jokes on some of the other lads but any time Eric used to walk into the training ground we’d all go quiet."

Seriously, what was Eric really like? Article

Team-mates including Keane, Robson and Sharpe share unique insights into the enigmatic Monsieur Cantona.

Eric Cantona pictured in Monaco in October 2012

Happy birthday, Eric! Article

To mark his 52nd birthday, sit back and enjoy our enthralling archive interview with Eric Cantona.

Eric Cantona celebrating a goal for Manchester United.
#MUTrivia
says

Eric Cantona scored 82 goals in 185 appearances for United between 1992 and 1997. The Frenchman also won seven major trophies with the Reds.

Ronaldo and Giggs

Who is our greatest ever Premier League player? Article

Join the debate and have your say as we focus on the Reds’ star man from the Premier League era.

The King is returning to Old Trafford Article

Eric Cantona will make a celebrated return on Sunday 10 June, to take part in Soccer Aid for Unicef.

Eric Cantona celebrates his FA Cup final winner against Liverpool in 1996.
#MUTrivia
says

King Eric scored his famous FA Cup final winner against Liverpool on 11 May 1996, clinching a historic Double for Alex Ferguson's Reds.

Eric Cantona in action for United at Old Trafford in 1997.
#MUTrivia
says

On 11 May 1997, Eric Cantona made his final United appearance at Old Trafford, in a 2-0 win over West Ham.

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