Club: Manchester United
Growth type: Standard
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- Has there ever been a more "French" Frenchman in football than Eric Cantona? He is perhaps one of the most iconic men to have ever played the game - a loose canon on and off the pitch, with his tall frame balanced by finesse, flair and skill the like the English game had never seen before. "Ooh Ahh" said fans of Cantona and he certainly gave them something to ooh and ahh about.
In 1981, when Eric was 15, he joined the Auxerre youth team. There he was spotted by the French national youth team too, but Eric had to do his duty to France in more ways than football back then. The time had come for him to complete his year of national service in the army.
Eric completed his stint but kept up the football throughout and went straight to Auxerre upon his return and right into their first team. After a promising period with Auxerre, a bout of illness led to him being dropped before going to Martigues on loan and then in 1988 to Marseille. Eric remained at Marseille until 1991, but during this period he was loaned to a couple of other clubs before finally being taken by Nimes in 1991.
The fires of the Frenchman’s belly were starting to bubble up. His temper on the pitch, which had been a huge part of his rocky eight years in French football, now made him a trouble-maker at Nimes and it was French legend Michel Platini who suggested Eric should move to the more aggressive game over the English Channel.
Eric was going to sign for Sheffield Wednesday but it was rival Yorkshire club Leeds United who nabbed the Frenchman. He became a vital part of the Leeds side that won the last ever 1st Division before it became the Premier League in 1991/92. As Platini predicted, Cantona enjoyed the English ethos and discovered quite the goalscoring touch for the Whites, none more so than in the 1992 Charity Shield, where he bagged a hat-trick against rivals Liverpool.
Sadly Leeds Utd failed to cut it in the new Premier League in the following season and their beloved French star Cantona left the club in Nov 1992 and joined giants of the English game Manchester United for what would become one of the biggest bargains in football - only £1.2 million. Man Utd needed a goal scorer and in Cantona they certainly got that.
It’s questionable whether the complete dominance Man Utd had on the English game in the nineties would have been possible had it not been for ooh ahh Cantona. He appeared in 143 games for the Red Devils between 1992-97 with a fine return of 84 goals. He made an explosive start at Old Trafford and, in the first two seasons arriving from Leeds, Eric helped United win the next two league titles, the FA Cup and picked up the individual reward of 1994 PFA Player of the Year.
His skill was immense and the partnerships he had with wingers such as Ryan Giggs and fellow striker Mark Hughes made United an unstoppable force in the early-mid '90s.
Ligue 1 1989, 1991
Coupe de France 1988
Coupe de France: 1990
Football League First Division: 1991-92
Charity Shield: 1992
Premier League: 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97
FA Cup: 1993-94, 1995-96
Charity Shield: 1993, 1994, 1996
45 Caps 20 Goals
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1994
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1996
Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992/3 - 2001/2)
Overseas Player of the Decade
Overall Team of the Decade
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