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Cantona turns 50: King Eric’s most sensational Man Utd moments

Holly Thackeray | May 24, 2016

Five classic Cantona clips

Something is brewing at Manchester United. All of Old Trafford may be distracted by Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils dugout departure just two days after winning the FA Cup, and the expected announcement of Jose Mourinho as next manager – but there is another Man Utd milestone taking place today.

This particular big day happens to be iconic attacker-come-actor Eric Cantona’s 50th birthday, which allows Coral writers the chance to cast an eye back over a footballing past that could prove eerily similar to the immediate future.

Should Mourinho take over, charismatic but ageing Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is mooted to follow. Of course, Cantona’s arrival at Old Trafford at a late stage of his career back in 1992 was lauded as the catalyst for Sir Alex Ferguson’s golden era of success, hence the parallels – is history about to repeat itself?

Eric Cantona Turns 50 Preview Package

Still, there is only one King Eric of the up-turned collar. So, we celebrate half a century of Cantona class by picking out the Frenchman’s five most fantastic Man Utd moments. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below…

As for the man himself on his best moment? The controversial kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan that saw him banned for eight months of football, of course.

“My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan. I didn’t punch him strong enough. I should have punched him harder.” We couldn’t include that, but here are five less violent alternatives…

The cheeky chip (v Sunderland, 1996)

Forever known as THAT goal, this fabulous chip by the Frenchman perfectly encapsulates Cantona’s rarefied skillset, and will remain in the Premier League archives as one of the greatest English top-flight strikes.

Sunderland were the unlucky opposition in 1996, as Cantona expertly evaded the markers swarming around him in midfield before driving toward goal, exchanging swift passes with Brian McClair and finally releasing a deft chip into the top-left corner of the net. Stunning, and added to the sensational strike was the low-key celebration, as if it were nothing special.

Relive Cantona’s clever chip below:

A vicious volley (v Liverpool, 1996)

With only five minutes to go in normal time in an FA Cup final where victory meant that Man Utd (6/1 with Coral to win the 2016/17 Premier League) would become the first team to win a domestic double twice, stand-in skipper Cantona was the one who stepped up to the plate.

To end the stalemate, Cantona coolly lurked on the edge of Liverpool’s area, volleying David Beckham’s corner with aplomb after David James had punched the ball back out toward him. Consequently, after burying rivals the Reds’ hopes emphatically, Cantona became the first captain from outside the British Isles to lift the FA Cup. Mission accomplished.

Penalty and a pole dance (v Liverpool, 1995)

Cantona was certainly one for cracking comebacks and completed one that must linger still among Liverpool fans, as the French attacking instigator returned from his ban to ensure United a split of the spoils at an adoring Old Trafford.

As well as an assist for Nicky Butt from a whipped cross just two minutes into the match, Cantona slid Ryan Giggs into the opposition box, for which the Welshman won a penalty. It was always going to be Cantona who converted, hitting it strong and low, before celebrating with a famous twirl around a pole in front of fans.

At the double (v Chelsea, 1994)

Another iconic FA Cup final moment from King Eric came as United clinched their first Ferguson domestic double back in 1994, with Cantona popping up on the big stage to bag a brace against Chelsea as the Red Devils ran out dominant 4-0 winners.

Both were penalties but no less impressive as they occurred under immense pressure, though Cantona barely blinked as he dispatched on his favourite path low and slightly to the right both times. Lethal.

Remember this?

A hero against the Villans (v Aston Villa, 1993)

Another double here, as Cantona helped himself to a couple against Aston Villa, in a match which propelled Man Utd 13 points clear at the summit of the Premier League just before Christmas in 1993.

Having blasted his first into the roof of the net, Cantona followed that up with a sublime second, latching onto a Steve Bruce punt upfield before nudging off a defender and lashing home stylishly. A characteristic Cantona goal if ever there was one.

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