Born: 24th May 1966, in Marseille, France

International Debut : versus West Germany, 12th August 1987.
International Caps :   43 (20 goals).
Clubs :   Auxerre (debut 1983),  Martigues (on loan),  Auxerre again,  Marseille,  Bordeaux (on loan),  Marseille again,  Montpellier (on loan),  Marseille yet again,  Nimes,  Sheffield Wednesday (trial), Leeds,  MANCHESTER UNITED.
European Under -21 Championship for France : 1988.
French Cup for Montpellier :     1990.
French League for Marseille : 1991.
English Division One for Leeds : 1992.
Premier League for United :   1993, 1994, 1996, 1997.
FA Cup for United :   1994, 1996.
PFA Player of the Year : 1994.
Footballer of the Year :   1996.

Eric Cantona was perhaps the most influential footballer in English football of the 1990s.  A player of true vision and creativity, worthy of that now, much over-used word,  "genius" . His  passing, innovation and influence was unrivalled, he could split a defence with the sort of pass that only he could create. Eric had an exhilarating  array of skills, back-heels, stylish flicks, turns  and  lobs  combined with immaculate ball control and touch.

His   shooting   from  long - range   was   superb   while   one-on-one   with   the goalkeeper,  he   was   ice   cool   and   clinical.   If   opposing   defenders   lost concentration for a millisecond, it would be enough for Cantona to punish them and set the Reds on the way to another vital victory. Together with a sometimes unpredictable   Gallic   temperament,   Cantona   was   a   one-man  footballing phenomenon.

Cantona was a unique character, a one-off, but Manchester United and Eric was a match  made in heaven. When  Alex Ferguson  stunned  everyone  in  English football with the deal of the decade that aquired him from Leeds, few knew  the impact  Eric  would  make.  Most  United  fans  thought  he  was  no more than a strengthening of the squad, but a few months later it became clear that Cantona was  by far  the  most  important  player at  Old Trafford. From  the  moment  he walked  through  the  door  he  realized  there  was  at  last the platform he was looking  for, huge potential, huge  support  and  a working assumption that only the best is good enough. And Eric Cantona knew he was the best.

He  was  the  final  piece  of  Alex Ferguson's  jigsaw  in  creating a team to end United's 26 year wait for a league title. Within  a  short  while of his arrival, such was   his   powerful   influence  that  the  whole  United  team  revolved  around
the    mercurial   Frenchman.  With   Cantona  and   United   playing   the   most attractive   football  of  the  90's  they  not  only  ended  that   26  year  wait  and went  on  to  do  the  League  and  Cup  Double  in  1994  and 1996 with another Premier League title in 1997.

Cantona  had  numerous  problems  with  discipline during his career in France, sendings off and tantrums prevented him making a real  impact. Born  in  Paris, he  was  brought  up  in  Marseille and made his  first-team  debut  for  Auxerre, a local club, in 1983. He signed professional forms for Auxerre in June 1986 and made his full International debut in 1987 against West Germany. After 81 league games  and  23  goals  for  Auxerre  he  signed  in  1988  for  French  champions Marseille  for  £2.3  million where he won the  League  and Cup double in  989. However, after  a row  when  he angrily  threw  his  shirt  to  the  ground he was loaned to out  Bordeaux, before signing for  Montpellier, with whom he won the French Cup in 1990. He returned to Marseille again, then was sold for £1 million to Nîmes where he became Captain.

His  rebellious  behavior  forced  him to leave after arguments  with managers, referees, and team-mates. In August 1988, he insulted the  French national team manager  on  television and was banned from the national side for a year. After he  threw  the  ball at a referee in while playing  for  Nîmes  he  was banned for three matches. In  the  disciplinary  hearing  that followed an annoyed  Cantona went up  to  three  members  of  the  French  FA and shouted  "Idiot!" in each of their  faces.  This  led  to  a  two  month  ban and Eric announced his retirement from   football    in   December  1991,  it  would   be  only   temporary  however. Cantona  returned  in  England  and  made a low-key return briefly at   Sheffield Wednesday   before   joining    Leeds   United   in  February   1992 -  in   time  to make  15  league   appearances  and  help   Leeds   win  the   Championship  at Manchester United's expense.

He   became   an   idol  of  the   Leeds   fans   as   they  sang  the  terrace  chant "Ohh-Ahh-Cantona". Then  suddenly  in  November  1992  after  13  appearances into the new season, he was sensationally  transferred  to Manchester United for the  comparatively  small  sum  of  £1.2 million. It  was  to  be one of the biggest bargains   in   British   football  history.  Cantona  inspired   United  to  their  first League  title  for  26 years  in  1993  and  the  following  year  another  title with the FA Cup -  to complete the club's first Double. He also won the recognition  of his fellow professional's, winning the PFA Player of the Year award in  1994 and had also risen to become Captain of the French National team.

At Leeds, Cantona  was  an  idol, at Manchester  United  he  was  a  God.  Fans worshipped  him  the like of which  Old Trafford  had  not seen or may ever see. He was hailed as  "Eric the King"  with  the  French  red, white and blue colours as  prevalent  at  Old Trafford than the normal red, white and black. Even to this day  3 years  after  his  departure  fans  still sing his name. No United player has ever had such a relationship with his fans. Eric  was a player to be proud of and symbol  of a  resurgent  Manchester United  in  the 1990s. He encapsulated what United  fans  think of our club: different, better. Memorable  Cantona  moments? Well, there are many: A stunning  volley  against  Wimbledon  in the FA Cup 5th Round 1994, his  pair  of  penalty  kicks  that  sunk  Chelsea  in  the  Cup Final of the same year, a  brilliant  chip  against  Sheffield United  in  the  3rd Round the following  year. Then  there  was  his  individual  effort  against  QPR in October 1993, scoring two goals against Man City in both derbies of the 93-94 season, his crucial winner at  Newcastle in March 1996, his superb strike versus Arsenal that same month, his  winning goal in the  1996 FA Cup Final, a  delicate lob against Sunderland in December 1996.......the list could go on and on.

When  Eric was playing you always  knew  that when it mattered, United would win. Cantona  would  install  in  the  rest of the team an unbeatable confidence. His presence alone was enough. Footballers  need  self-belief  but Eric Cantona had  unfathomable  reserves  of  the  stuff. His  arrogance  had upset colleagues in  the  past, but  at   United  it  only  inspired  them. Eric  really   did  intimidate opponents and wind-up opposing fans. There was his confident  Gallic strut with his chest puffed out, or  sometimes  he'd stand with hands on hips gesturing like a movie Director. Not  forgetting  the  way  his  shirt collar was always famously turned up. He was  truly  fascinating  to  watch  but  Cantona   was  no  ordinary footballer.  He   liked   philosophy,  poetry,  art,  drama -  this  all  added  to  his enigmatic character and reputation.

In  the  infamous "Kung-foo kick"  Cantona's  volatile  state  of  mind  led to him attacking  an  abusive  spectator. A  court  sentence  of   120  hours'  community service  was  accompanied  by  a  world-wide  ban  on Cantona playing football until  October 1995. The  French  FA  stripped  him  of  captaincy of the  national team  and  Cantona  would  never  play  for  his  country  again. In  his absence United  lost  the  League  by a point to Blackburn, a title they surely would have won  had he not  been banned. Cantona's  grace  in  accepting  his  punishment largely   restored   his   popularity   and   he   was   voted  the  Football  Writers' Association Footballer  of the  Year for 1996. 1996 was  Cantona's  greatest  year in  which  as  Captain  he  led  United  to  the  Double, almost   single-handedly. Scoring a string of vital match winning goals, including the FA Cup-final winner against Liverpool. Cantona  also played a vital role in the shaping and teaching of United's young players such as Beckham, Scholes and Giggs.

In  1996-97 Cantona had a  good  season but failure to get to the  European Cup Final and  the emergence  of United's young stars led him to suspect his powers were on the wane. In June  1997  after  winning  he League title he stunned the footballing world and left United fans gutted by  announcing his retirement. Eric did  not  want  to  be remembered as an ageing player past his best, he wanted to  always  be remembered at his magnificent prime, a winner. Cantona instead planned to take up a different stage, amazingly, as a film actor. He did however return  for   one   final   game  in  the  famous  red  shirt, playing  in the  Munich Memorial   game  in  November  1998.  A   year   later   Eric  returned   for   Alex Ferguson's   Testimonial   in   which   he  played  with  a  United  legends  team alongside   Bruce,  Pallister, Hughes, Robson  and  Schmeichel. Even  after  the Treble winning heroics, Cantona's  popularity  with  the  United fans  was still as strong as it ever was. The acting career path has so far not been a huge success and Cantona  has returned  to  the  game  representing  France  in the shape of professional  Beach football - and his superb skills are still very evident.  In May 2001 Manchester United  announced  Cantona would return to Old Trafford in an informal  role  to  coach  the  youth team and younger players. If it is successful, perhaps he may yet have another role to play in the club's history.

As unexpectedly as he had arrived he was gone. The  King  had  abdicated and his throne was empty. Consequently,  Alex Ferguson  reshaped his team to play more as a unit and not revolve around Cantona. United never really did replace him, there was no-one like him and no-one would ever be like him. A true great and legend, Eric "The King" Cantona, we will probably never see his like again.

Career Highlights

1983   Makes    professional    debut    for Auxere

1985   Loaned  to  Martigues  after  making  just  13 appearances and scoring two goals in three seasons for Auxerre.

1986   Returned   to   Auxerre   and   over  the  next   two  seasons  made  68  appearances and scored 21 goals.

1987    Receives  heavy  fine  for  punching his  team's  goalkeeper, giving him a black eye. Makes  his  debut  for  France  against West Germany.

1988    Joins   Marseille  in  French  record £2million deal. Banned  from  French team for  one  year  after   swearing    at national coach Henri Michel .

1989   Suspended indefinitely by Marseille after  kicking  the  ball  into the crowd and throwing  his  shirt  at  a referee after being substituted. Joins  Bordeaux  on loan, then moves to Montpellier for £300,000

1990  Banned  by  Montpellier for 10 days after  smashing  his  boots  into  the face of team-mate  Jean  Claude  Lemoult. Returns to Marseille.

1991   Signs  for  Nimes  but is banned for three  games  after t hrowing  the  ball  at a referee.  At   the   disciplinary  hearing,  he walks  up  to each committee member and says:  "Idiot". His  ban  is  increased  to two months,     so     Cantona     responds     by announcing his retirement from soccer.

1992   Comes  out  of  retirement for a trial with  Sheffield  Wednesday,  but  walks out after  being  asked  to  remain  for a further week  and  joins  Leeds for £900,000. Helps the Elland  Road  side win the League title before   moving  to  Manchester  United  in £1.2million deal.

1993   Fined  £1,000 by the FA  for spitting at  a  Leeds  fan  in  his  first  game back at Elland    Road    with    Manchester United, whom  he  then  helps  to  the  Premiership title. Sent  off  in  United's   European  Cup defeat  by  Galatasaray  in Istanbul, Turkey, for    accusing   the   referee   of   cheating, scuffles  with Turkish police and is banned by UEFA for four European games.

1994   Scores  two goals in the 4-0 FA Cup final  over  Chelsea  as United complete the League and Cup double. Voted PFA Player of the Year.

1995   Sent    off    at    Crystal   Palace  on January  25   after  a   Kung-Fu   kick at fan Matthew Simmons. His actions lead to him being    banned   from   all   football  until September 30 and fined £10,000 by the FA. A two-week prison sentence for the offence is  varied   on   appeal   to   120  hours  of community  service. Returns  to  action  on October  1  and  scores  a  penalty  in a  2-2 draw against Liverpool.

1996   Voted  Footballer of the Year by the Football   Writers   Association  and scores winning   goal   in   FA  Cup  final   against Liverpool  as  United  complete  the double for the second time in three seasons.

1997    Member     of     a    championship-winning   side   for   the  fifth  time  in  six seasons  but  a  week after the  Premiership finale,   announces    his   retirement   from professional soccer at the age of 30.
© 2005-2008. Barrie Spirit Soccer
Eric  Cantona
"It is fortunate most players are not like me, otherwise there would be anarchy."
                      Eric Cantona
Apr, 2005
What are the possibilities of you returning to United in some capacity?
    If  I  come back it will be because  I think  I'll  have something to give. I don't want to be to be a manager like everybody else, playing the  same system.  No,  I  want  to  be  like  I  was  as  a  player;  I'll want  to  create something I remember  in  the seventies when Johan Cruyff  was at Ajax and  then  after  that  in Barcelona, it was a new system. Its like in music; if  you are a rock star and create something no-one has heard before. If  I feel that then I will come back.
"Eric    Cantona's contributions was, without question, magnificent. He was   the   catalyst     for  the championships.
He brought  a vision  that we did not have before. He  was  an      absolutely  phenomenal  player and he      created       many  ideals and visions for the young players, who watched him  and copied him."
                      Alex Ferguson
"He was a role  model  for all of us, even the older lads. Just  being  there he had  an  influence on us. What  he  could   do  for people's  confidence  was  unbelievable."
                David Beckham
"I   think  maybe  I  quit  too  young.  But   I   didn't    have  the passion to  go to bed early, not  go  out  with  my friends and do a lot of things - the things you like in life."
                      Eric Cantona
"I have passion inside me, the passion which leads me to create something, a certain fire which I have inside that demands to be let out"
                      Eric Cantona
"If I thought personal glory was more important than team glory then I would have taken up an individual sport."
                       Eric Cantona