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.
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.