On November 26, 1992, Eric Cantona crossed the Pennines from Elland Road to Old Trafford in one of the most audacious and talked about signings in recent football history to begin a long-lasting love affair with Manchester United which continues to this day.
As well as a United great the Frenchman is also regarded as one of the most influential players of the Premier League era, and while there are far too many to mention, here are just some of the key moments which endeared him to Reds fans who still sing his name all these years on.
Leaving Leeds and signing for Manchester United
Signing Eric Cantona from United’s old rivals was probably the most significant move Sir Alex Ferguson made when building a side that would ultimately go on and dominate English football. It would set the Red Devils on their way to becoming the powerhouse of the Premier League for the next two decades or so, while also really getting up the noses of Leeds United fans.
Guiding United to the league title for the first time in 26 years
When Alex Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford in November 1986 Manchester United were languishing in the shadows of their great rivals on Merseyside having not won the league since 1967. But after several false alarms Cantona’s arrival in 1992 galvanised a side which had been promising so much for years and six months later United finally won that elusive top-flight title; eventually going on to surpass Liverpool's total of 18 - something which would have been unthinkable prior to his signing.
His Kung-Fu kick at Selhurst Park
Although hugely controversial at the time Eric Cantona’s actions at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995 ensured a place in the hearts of United fans forever. After receiving a red card he was on the end of a verbal onslaught from Palace fan Matthew Simmons as he left the field and decided to take the law into his own hands by launching a kick and a number of blows at his abuser; something which initially earned the mercurial forward a prison sentence, later reduced to community service and an eight-month ban from the game.
Scoring against Liverpool in the FA Cup Final
After guiding United to their third Premier League title in four seasons, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team were looking to become the first side ever to win the double-double by beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final. And with just five minutes remaining the ball dropped to Cantona, following a mix-up in Liverpool’s defence, and the Frenchman calmly fired the ball home to cap a memorable season for himself and the club while further cementing his relationship with the United faithful.
THAT goal against Sunderland
With so many great strikes in his time at United it’s impossible to pick his best, but when it comes to his most iconic the goal against Sunderland in December 1996 has to be up there. After picking-up the ball in midfield Cantona played a one-two with Brian McClair before sending the perfect chip into the far corner of the net and, although the goal was sublime in itself, his nonchalant celebration complete with upturned collar, perfectly summed-up the brilliance and arrogance of the French genius and still sends shivers down the spine of United fans who remember it.
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