Coppell scoring a brace vs City on the 1978/79 season. Feb 10th, 1979.
"United’s flag is deepest red, it shrouded all our Munich dead. Before their limbs grew stiff and cold, their heart’s blood dyed it’s ev’ry fold. Then raise United’s banner high, beneath it’s shade we’ll live and die. So keep the faith and never fear."
Twenty years ago today, Eric Cantona walked off the Old Trafford pitch after a 2-0 win against West Ham, and away from professional football forever. One of the key figures in Sir Alex Ferguson's restoration of Manchester United, Cantona was only 30. It was entirely in keeping with both his character, and the mythology that surrounds him, that hardly anyone knew the end was nigh.
The supporters certainly didn't see it coming. They had just seen him play his 36th league game of the season, wrapping up the title-winning campaign with a delightful pass to substitute Jordi Cruyff, enabling the young Dutchman to score in front of his father, Johan.
Cantona's teammates were no better informed. He had said nothing about retirement in the dressing room afterwards but, after turning out in a testimonial for former Coventry defender David Busst six days later, he just slipped away, returned to France and let the shockwaves reverberate across English football in his absence.
Sir Alex Ferguson knew. Always an astute judge of a sell-by date, he had been concerned for several months that something had changed in Cantona. Poor performances in the Champions League allied to an increasing morosity in the dressing room were enough to alert him to the developing problem.
Three weeks before the end of the season, after a dismal European display (losing 2-0 on aggregate in the semifinals against Borussia Dortmund), Cantona confirmed his suspicions, voicing his intention to retire. Ferguson convinced him to delay his decision, to speak to his father, to give football one more chance. But Cantona's mind was made up.
In the years since his departure, Cantona's legend has come under increasing scrutiny from a new generation of supporters prepared to assess his record with clearer minds and steadier heart-rates. They point to relatively unimpressive statistics spread over a short, nomadic career. But Cantona was never about statistics.
To understand his legend, you have to understand English football at the start of the 1990s. It was far from the omnipresent, family-friendly corporate monster it is now. It had demons. Many stadiums were dilapidated Victorian relics. Two disasters in the 1980s (Valley Parade in Bradford and Hillsborough) killed 152 fans in total. Hooliganism was rampant.
It was parochial too. Of the 22 managers in that first Premier League, only one was not British and that was Dublin-born Joe Kinnear at Wimbledon. On the first day of the season, just 13 players originated from outside Britain and Ireland. The pitches existed in states that veered wildly from just-about-acceptable to dangerous quagmires and, unsurprisingly, the speed and technical quality was markedly lower than today. And into this bleak, grey arena strode Cantona.
After the briefest of period at Sheffield Wednesday, he moved to Leeds United and while he was by no means integral to their pre-Premier League title success in 1992, starting six games and scoring three times, his presence brought tremors of excitement. He was like an experimental secret weapon. His full capabilities were still unknown, but the casing was shiny and something inside was ticking threateningly.
On and off the pitch, he radiated charisma. Philippe Auclair's magnificent biography "The Rebel Who Would Be King" details the immediate effect he had on English society, the way that his cryptic pronouncements delighted the press. On TV screens, his quiet, brooding cool caught the eye and held it. But it was on the pitch where he stood apart and never more so than when he moved to Old Trafford.
No Cantona moment, with a football at least, is more instructive than his goal against Sunderland in December 1996. Picking up the ball just inside the opposition half, he left two players behind immediately and after a quick one-two with Brian McClair, beat another one in a heartbeat. Sunderland's Gareth Hall closed in as he reaches the edge of the penalty area, but Cantona simply ignored him. With one stroke of his right leg, he lifted the ball gently, sensually, perfectly over Lionel Perez and watched quietly as it kissed the inside of the far post and bounced in.
And then he slowly turned. Like a dragon who has just destroyed a nearby village, he turned to the cowering adventurers -- "Foolish humans. To think that you could ever oppose me," he seemed to say.
Moments like that are not quantifiable. Even those who didn't support United, even those who loathed them, were captivated by Cantona. The stories of his tempestuous past were legend.
In 1991, having just signed for Nimes, he was so frustrated at being repeatedly fouled without receiving any protection from the referee, Cantona threw the ball at him and stormed off. When he received a four match ban at the subsequent disciplinary hearing, Auclair writes, "Eric walked up to every member of the commission and repeated the same word: 'Idiot!' and left the room."
There are few among us of a certain age who did not later stand in front of angry teachers desperately trying (and failing) to summon up the courage to emulate Cantona. His disdain for authority was seductive.
Even his nadir, when he kung-fu kicked an abusive fan at Selhurst Park in 1995 -- landing a nine-month football ban and fine of £10,000 -- could not halt his rise. The star of a sport that had been of limited interest four years previous became a mainstream, British household name.
The Guardian's David Lacey called him, "nitroglycerine in human form." The Financial Times reported that £3 million had been wiped from Manchester United's value on the stock market. There was steam coming out of the ears of the football establishment, who banned him for eight months. Meanwhile, fans around the country tried to convince ourselves that we would do the same if faced with a similar situation.
Cantona wasn't about statistics. He wasn't about goal scoring rates or xG. He was barely even about football. He was a mystical warrior who came across the sea, emboldened those around him to success, and then wandered away again too soon.
Twenty years ago this week, Eric Cantona announced his retirement from football. His impact on Manchester United and on English football was immeasurable.
“‘Ooh ahh, Cantona’? They won’t sing it here.”
That was one of the more extreme responses from a supporter outside Old Trafford (see video below) the day after Cantona stunned football – not for the first time and certainly not for the last – by signing for Manchester United.
Not all United fans shared that conviction, but many were suspicious of this extraordinary twist........
Deleted: 'indonesian wizard'
May 10, 2018 18:27:15 GMT
WhatsTheMata: Glad you think it's funny. When we get fucked around by the spells you just deleted you will take me seriously
May 19, 2018 11:57:48 GMT
No.7: Can this thread be unlocked or is it too early? not that i want Jose out now but i think were coming close to that time and want to hear peoples opinions on the subject.
Sept 20, 2018 10:15:25 GMT
cjjagzmoni: Pogba is a good lad minus the showboating..I think at Juventus he had Older players like Pirlo,Chiellini,Marchisio,Bonucci who shout and screams at him so he was more serious at Juve ,We dont have those type of leaders at United to caution him.
Nov 1, 2018 3:36:38 GMT
geo: Cardiff City - Huddersfield Town - Bournemouth - Newcastle United = 12 points. Back in the hunt. Come on.
Dec 19, 2018 17:55:18 GMT
geo: Job done as above - next step, stay unbeaten until we get to the PSG game.
Jan 3, 2019 23:17:42 GMT
theedge: Just discovered this forum. I live in Canada so don't get to many games, but I get to watch all the games live. Last 2 games attended in person: Europa League Final in Stockholm 2017, FA Cup Final 2016. Won the last 11 I've been to. I need to go more often
Apr 1, 2019 23:25:01 GMT
simes: Kazakhstan....well blow me down...been there many a time, not so bad a journey. FC Astana are not a bad outfit, gave Celtic a good run, and the National side beat Scotland. What do you reckon a walk over? BTW its easy to get to, I always use Air Astana.
Aug 30, 2019 14:11:59 GMT
snan1218: Hi,I'm very new member,the Red Devil from Malaysia.
Oct 10, 2019 9:16:40 GMT
shah: Hi i am shah been united fan from birec
Jan 24, 2020 8:33:02 GMT