The day after Eric Cantona’s astonishing Kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park in January 1995 I had to attend an all day BBC senior management seminar on ‘The Digital Revolution’. Roy, the deputy head of Children’s TV, a Manc and life-long United supporter came up in a state of agitation about it all and it was the main topic of conversation off and on all day, especially when it became known that I’d ‘been there’ last night. The press coverage had been massive, with the famous still of the infamous leap on every front page. Again I found myself defending Eric, whilst ‘not condoning’ his actions, a phrase one was to hear endlessly from anyone trying to speak up for Eric amidst the wild excesses of public condemnation. I complained about the BBC coverage the night before, but seeing it later on it just seemed part of a wider moral panic. In the end the whole thing was actually deeply unsettling, in ways people who care nothing for sport could never understand. To me United should always uphold what is best in football, skilful, expressive, artistic, creative play that lifts the spirits, and at his best that’s what Eric the King delivered. But United should also uphold the highest standards of behaviour and sportsmanship, and sadly at his worst Eric simply didn’t. Yet to add to this complex of contradictions, I mainly thought, whatever, he’s a brilliant player, a true Red Devil, he’s United, I’m standing by my man…
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