Eric Cantona: The man behind Manchester United's revival as a footballing force

The Frenchman played a key role in United dominating the Premier League under Sir Alex Ferguson in the 1990s.

Eric Cantona in a file photo; Credit: Manchester United Twitter
By Karthik Raman | May 19, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us


To say Eric Cantona was a Manchester United great is an understatement. The tenacious forward was more than that. He was at the heart of the club that started the revolution under Sir Alex Ferguson in the 1990s. The Frenchman won the Premier League title four times in five seasons at Old Trafford before retiring in May 1997. He is rightfully worshiped by the club’s loyal fans. It was with Cantona leading the side, United established themselves as a footballing force in England, which later transpired to European glory.

Known for turning up his collar, Cantona had an immediate impact since joining the Red Devils in 1992. He joined Leeds United from French Side Nimes in 1992, but he laid down his marker at Old Trafford after completing a transfer for a reported £1.2 million fee on 26 November 1992. Before the arrival of the Frenchman, United were well off the pace to challenge the league leaders for the title.

But there was a change in momentum once the forward joined the team. The Red Devils only lost twice in the league after Cantona’s arrival. United finished the season 10 points clear at the top of the table to end their 26-year title drought under their former manager Ferguson. It was the beginning of something special.

Cantona, nicknamed by Manchester United fans as “King Eric”, scored 70 goals in 156 Premier League matches. But he was more than just goals. The physically strong forward worked tirelessly for the team up front. He made the most of his strength and combined it with technical skill and creativity to establish him as one of the forwards of the division.

Hall of Fame

He was rightly inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame recently. The Frenchman responded in a classic Cantona style following his name being inducted into the Hall of Fame. “I am very happy and very proud and at the same time, I am not surprised,” said the 54-year-old.

“Of course, to play in England was a dream. It is a dream of everybody to play in the Premier League. I have been lucky to play in this [Manchester United] team with wonderful players, a wonderful manager and wonderful fans. It was the football I dreamt about because Manchester United is a club where they want to win things but in a good way. It was like this in the time of Matt Busby. This is the identity of this club, the philosophy of this club.”

Cantona, who wore the iconic No. 7 shirt at Manchester United, also had his demons. In January 1995, he infamously kung-fu kicked a fan at Selhurst Park, leading to a nine-month ban from football. He was subsequently stripped of his captaincy of the France national team.

Nonetheless, the club fans will always have a dear place in their heart for the French forward. It was his arrival that turned the Red Devils into a dominant force. Eric Cantona will forever be regarded as a Manchester United legend by the club’s loyalists.



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