“If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: ‘I’m Cantona. How big are you? Are you big enough for me?"
— Sir Alex Ferguson
If there was any player who has summed up Manchester united in the last two decade, it was Eric Cantona. Here was a player who was supreme in his ability to understand his own abilities. Like an old saying goes, Fear a man who knows himself. And, there is absolutely no doubt that Cantona instilled a certain fear in his opponents through his sheer genius. Cantona was and will always be a Manchester united legend, not because he has won the most number of trophies, but because he showed a team of budding youngsters what the realm of impossibility looks like.
Eric Cantona was the hearthrob of a hustling and bustling United
Cantona hasn’t won the treble, Cantona hasn’t won the Champions league, and Cantona definitely hasn’t won the famed Ballon d’or. But, none of this seems to wane his popularity among the supporters in Manchester. In fact, they would rate him higher than some of the players who have won the said prestigious awards. The truth is no one talks about the Cups Cantona brought to Old Trafford, because people were and will always be too busy to talk about the pride Cantona brought with him. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, but Cantona’s Pride was always justified, at the very least the fans rationalized.
Now to the elephant in the room, of course no one can ever forget the Kung Fu kick. If you haven’t seen or heard of it, then let me explain. Cantona was sent off at Crystal palace at the 48th min, as he was walking past the touchline, a random crystal fan, Mathew Simmons, had a few words to say. Cantona being Cantona launched himself at the fan. And, when we say launched, we mean it. Cantona flew leg up front and hence the Kung Fu kick will be remembered forever.
“Eric Cantona was special, he had an aura about him, he is the king of Old Trafford and that’s the way he should always be remembered. Eric is a great guy, a great player, one of the best players I have ever played with.”
— David Beckham
Eric Cantona and David Beckham
This is David Beckham we are talking about, the David Beckham. Imagine the affect Cantona must have had on Beckham who himself is one of football’s biggest personalities. This was Cantona, this was the Cantona people fell in love with. He influenced the younger generations at Old Trafford, look at the class of ’92, Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, Butt, and the Neville brothers. The group of players which went on to define a footballing mega structure as we know it today.
Even his retirement was quite characteristic to the man himself. Cantona retired at the age of 30. He didn’t retire because of a career threatening injure, neither did he retire because of the controversy around his antics at On-field or Off-field (remember the Kung Fu quick). Cantona simply retired because he believed he has done whatever he could do playing football. He retired because he knew he did what he could, and he did it well.
The Fans will forever remember King Cantona, as he is called so belovedly by the Old Trafford faithful. Cantona was truly one of Football’s greatest. And he will forever be the King, and the oohs and aahs will continue to reverberate at Old Trafford as long as the fans sing about him.