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The Redemption of Eric Cantona: The Double Double of 1995-96 Part I

I love it when Manchester United players show an interest in the club’s history. I want my idols to understand what it means and why it’s important, just like a supporter. That’s why Patrice Evra long ago endeared himself, with his immediate immersion in United’s past when he arrived in 2006, getting out books and DVDs to study the matter.And of course he soon found out just how central to United’s modern identity a certain fellow Frenchman had been: ‘I already knew Cantona was ‘The King’,’ he said recently, ‘but I really discovered who he was when I arrived here’.

It’s extraordinary what a hold Eric Cantona still has over our memories and imaginations, even now some fifteen years after his greatest days. Countless young fans who were hardly born still revere his name and what he stands for, and rightly so.

It’s never healthy to live in the past, but that’s not a reason not to celebrate it, especially when we can see what a powerful inspiration Eric the King still is, for players and supporters alike. It’s not for nothing that the immortal cry of ‘Ooh, Aah Cantona ‘ still echoes round grounds wherever United play.

So, in this spirit I’m going to continue the saga of Eric’s finest season at United, following my earlier eyewitness accounts of key episodes in his career (see under Archive), including the Kung-fu kick in January 1995, his imperious return after his 8 month ban against Liverpool in September ’96, and other milestones as United tried to make up for the missed Double Double of ’95 and go for it in ’96.

To read this story in full, purchase Red Matters from Amazon.

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43 Comments

  1. Kings says:

    Thanks for everything Eric Cantona.

  2. Kings says:

    Giles – Brilliant posts as always Sir. Really looking forward to reading part 2.

  3. Kings says:

    Giles – Sorry to appear pedantic, I think his return from his 8 month ban was on October 1st 1995 against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

  4. Ancha says:

    good morning ROM & Mr Giles Oakley

    As usual another brilliant piece, thank you! Mr Oakley

    I have a question for you
    As an Ex BBC employee, what is your take on the fued Between SAF & BBC?

  5. Raizzen says:

    U know Giles I’ll have to be honest I’ve never finished reading your article. Not that they were awful something but am just lazy like that. But this piece about Cantona, I just have to read it. And am with half tears in some parts of the article. But I don’t know why.

    There are some crazy part of me still fantasizing that one day he’ll call off his retirement and put on our shirt once again. That spiked collar. The celebration against Sunderland – that is forever associated with majestic in my mind.

    Thank you for the article Giles & Long live The King!

  6. Ancha says:

    Mr Oakley

    Football and United aside, I love the way you depict your life parallel to the football, that gives a very natural look to the article, my appreciation in my previous post is for the attention you give to a lot of things and provide those in such an excellent manner

  7. TheCantonas says:

    Well article Sir Giles, always looking for it.
    Btw LOL @ruud gullit…

  8. Mr C says:

    Great article but a point of order, perhaps:

    Denis Law was ‘the King’. Eric Cantona was ‘Dieu’.

    The status of mere royalty is insufficient for Eric.

  9. james says:

    LEGEND

    seagulls ===================== trawler

  10. LUHG says:

    I’m french and I’m a big fan of UTD thanks to him and the fans too, he will stay my idol 4 ever!!!!

  11. Manchuchu says:

    One has to only look upon the timeless image of Cantona. Steadfast. Collar upturned. Steely gaze on the horizon. Vigilantly defiant. Ready to spit in the face of whatever fate might have deemed upon the devils, to understand that we are the Captains of our own legacy. That we are always ready to be masters of our own destiny.

    Allez La Enfant Terrible

  12. mancunian says:

    And the media think Henry is the best import to play in England…I THINK NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Eric will never be beaten!!!!!

    I always have a pop at the plastic dippers in work…Kenny Dalglish the poormans Eric Cantona!!!!

  13. Zibbie says:

    Thanks Giles for a FNG of only 8 years now this is why I love RoM so. An education of a past I was not a part of. GLORY GLORY MAN UTD!!!!

  14. The Fly says:

    great read Giles

  15. ClaytonBlackmoresTan says:

    I had the shirt- the last one I bought in fact- with the stadium on it, black collar with

    7
    GOD

    on the back of it.

    I was 15 in 1996 and weirdly it doesn’t seem that long ago…

    I saw Robson, but in all honesty he was past his prime before I ever paid proper attention. I saw him play a lot but my favourite player initially was Gordon Strachan because he scored the first goal I ever witnessed live, at Highbury, aged 8, with my Dad, in the Gooners stand- and I looked over to the 3-4,000 United fans- most decked out in black, in the away end under the clock (before the corporate boxes went over the top of it) going fucking barmy and I said to my Dad “I want to be in there Dad”. “You will son, you will” he replied.

    But Cantona? Eric Cantona? Mon Dieu. Simple as, no question.

    Cantona was my first, and my last proper hero (Lion-O and B.A Baracus aside). I was in the Arthur Waite stand at Smellhurst Park, directly opposite, when he Kung Fu’d that bellend. I didn’t see it mind you, as a 14 year old I was giving it all the benny to some prick from Croydon in his replica Palace shirt (in full knowledge that the old man could drop him in a heartbeat if it actually kicked off). I was in a black leather jacket having studied the form of United away and got lost in the moment.

    As a United fan from London I always took proper stick from my mates- did they not fucking get it? Just the fact that Farcenal, Spurs, Chelsea (not that many fans back then actually, funny that) and West Ham were just fucking fodder in comparison? #just the red shirt, white shorts with the vengeful black socks were enough for me to start with. When those little holdall bags with teams names came out, 1986/7 or something- I was the only kid with a United one. Red bag, white writing, black trim. Fucking mustard. I loved being different. With the old man being from Norn Iron I had heard about his hero- George Best since I can remember.

    My mates didn’t seem to understand as we were a cup team when I began supporting them. then Sparky won it in Rotterdam and a few bandwagons began to get it. But then it changed a bit. They fucking realised when Eric was around- he was like a celestial personal bodyguard with his name on my back. Like a maestro conducting an orchestra with the ball- and he gave you this weird ‘you want it? We’ll fucking have it then’ sort of mentality. I’m a lover not a fighter- mainly cos i’m shite at fighting despite being good at mouthing off- but I sent a kid called Joseph Stubley to the floor with his nose splurging claret as he connected with the deck with my forehead for repeatedly turning down the collar on my shirt when I played under-16′s football. Sent off, ticked off- but the one time my old man didn’t bollock me because he knew why it had to be done. The victim was a West Ham fan too, Aurevoir you jellied eel munching inbred cunt- done. Ow that fucking hurt actually, but fuck it.

    I was in Armagh at my Uncle Larry’s house when he retired. I cried. I couldn’t quite believe it, but then you realise that he HAD to retire then, before he became just a player, just a number.

    I have seen Messi, Ronaldhnio, Ronaldo (buck tooth), Zidane, Henry (wanker), Zola (Zoe Wannamaker), Ronaldo (Our one), Xavi, Iniesta, The ginger Prince… but there is no one, not even mildly close in my opinion, to the King.

    I know I’ve gone on a bit but I know that anyone who got this far knows exactly what i’m on about.

    He was, is and always will be; Simpky the best.

    We all remember that night @ Selhurst Park- when you buried that amazing volley against Wimbledon in the Cup.

    Merci France pour Eric Cantona.

  16. ClaytonBlackmoresTan says:

    Simpky the best. Superb. Simply, that’ll do it.

  17. 16 says:

    thanks mr oakley , great stuff !!!

  18. waro says:

    That 1-0 score series is still haunting me to today. I think United is still miss a man who can change a game, from nothing to something, something good. Someone who you can rely on.

    The time he said he retired, it took me months to absorb that news, in my mind he can and should cancel his retirement.

  19. scan74 says:

    Fuck me you forget what seasons weve had down the years the treble 2008

    1996 was one of my favourite our results seemed like bianary code for a few weeks schmikes unbeatable at 1 end and King Eric bagging winner after winner

    always remember that nite against the geordies fuck me never seen us take such a battering schmeicel made save after save somehow we hung on and then the King grabbed a winner

    knew the league was turning our way that nite

  20. King Eric says:

    Great stuff Giles. Hope you are keeping well mate.

    Think Eric scored the winner in eight games on the spin if my memory serves me right. Spot on about Becks as well. I know he gets stick but I will always like him for what he did toward our success. He always speaks fondly of the club manager and fans. Don’t think he will ever forget the marvellous support he got from United fans up and down the lad after the world cup sending off.

  21. Tears you apart says:

    @ CLAYTONBLACKMORESTAN

    Mate what a great post, not the most moral, detailed, informative of funny post I have ever read, but sheer class for its human nature and the momments in it that mean so much to us Football fans.

    I am of a similar age to you…… I have been a red since I was around three and and one of my favorate memories growing up was the amazing pass neal webb played to the world class goal scorer lee martin to win SAF first trophy.

    Cantona was always the player I wanted to be when having a kick about, same colar up, same dont give a shit attitude……

    His goal against spurs is one of my all time fav RED goals. The way he just turned to the crowd and puffed out his chest….. fuck all that running around….. just stand there like a fucking KING…

    I still have my big cantona flag………..Damn mate, thanks for bringing back such great memories…..

    Cantona £1million – Howard Wilkinson Selling him and keeping Lee Chapman. Priceless!

  22. Kings says:

    Tears you apart – Hello mate. How great was that day? Wilkinson wanted Irwin, told them in no uncertain terms to fuck off, asked for Cantona and nicked him for a piss taking sum of £1m. The biggest liberty in the history of the game!

  23. willierednut says:

    Essential read as usual Giles. Looking forward to part 2 Sir.

    Oh ah Cantona!

    What the king done in the second half of that season was immense.

    You can never fully say, one player makes all the difference.

    That season, you can. Without Eric’s influence, I don’t think we would of won it that year.

    WRD 19!

  24. Tears you apart says:

    Hey King.

    I know, I think you can put a huge amount of success we have enjoyed as a club to that one momment.

    I hate LEEDS, but will always love that stupid bastard for that day!

    On another King Eric point, I hear alot on here about how cool berbs is, comparied to Eric he is Austin Powers!

    and an Eric cantona! (cant wait till xmas!)

  25. CedarsDevil says:

    ClaytonBlackmoresTan

    Loved reading that post…. Brilliant stuff

  26. CedarsDevil says:

    Tears you apart

    Here you go, this is for you and for Kings as well as we discussed it in another thread……… RIP Les Sealey

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkrTEYSTLQs

  27. Zibbie says:

    Few will get this,
    Cubs sun fun my dad I was six. His friend had season tickets a set of 6 seats 4 rows behind the visitors dug out. From that summer on we went to 10 to 15 games a summer, in the motor home. He had a boy my age. With 4 adults so drunk. Back then a guy had 5 martinis and drove with a kid standing in the front seat. Times have changed. When I was 10 My hero’s Dick Butkus Gale Sayes, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Roberto Clemente, Elivs and Ali. At 10 I caught a fowl ball off Ron Santo after the game he and Ernie Banks came into the bar we were in. Santo knew my dad they came by had beers with us and signed my ball and glove and bat. Then I meet Walter Payton when I was 15 and about lost it. My pops was a great Old Man. He was from MN every year for 8 years we went to the Twin Cities saw the Bear Viking game and a Black Hawk Northstar hockey game stayed at the Radision and had a blast with my brother 2 years younger, my Godfather and his two boys. Sport brings father’s and son’s close.

  28. Tears you apart says:

    Thanks Ceders, loved watching that. Also, it reminded me…..it was a really dangerous tacle by Mcclair after the free kick….Penalty?

    My first game was at OT when the scoucers won 2-1 and Barns went down the wing and scored. I remember a rather large scouse skin head standing up in the stretford end and singing. The reason why I can remeber this so clearly even though I was only 6 or 7 is that his head bounced of the back of the wooden seat behind me as he was kicked and punched all the way to the bottom. Must have been about 30 rows!

    Still i bet he remembers the goal! lmao

  29. CedarsDevil says:

    Tears you apart

    A definite penalty, not that we cared then nor do we care now! lol Loved the story about that scouse idiot, what on earth was he thinking being at the Stretty?

    My first game at OT was in 77, a 1 – 1 draw with Villa…. Not much else in terms of memories of the day! (The subsequent years of alcohol abuse is to blame for that) haha

  30. CedarsDevil says:

    Not sure why on earth I used brackets in that last post…….Dumb fuck!

  31. Tears you apart says:

    Ceders…

    The worst part of that day was as John barnes picked up the ball, my old dear turned to me and said “I have heard that hes a bit good” he then went down the wing and scored. I still to this day try not to watch any manu games with her, Superstition!

    But I wiull always love her for allowing and paying for me to travel to OT as a kid to watch.

    I also love the pally goal on of SAF first title homecoming against blackburn. That free kick was kinda like the icing on a very big cake!

  32. Kings says:

    CedarsDevil – Thanks for that link my friend. What a great day that was. What a performance from Les Sealey and what a great gesture from him to give his winners medal to Leighton. RIP Les our friend. Saw another Youtube clip when we battered Arsenal 6-2 at Highbury in the Rumbelows cup in 1991, with Sharpie getting a hat-trick.

    Tears you apart – Yeah thanks Wilko you silly fool!

  33. CedarsDevil says:

    Kings

    Pleasure buddy…….. Still remember those pathetic yet funny Sharpie goal celebrations by the corner flag…. hahaha

  34. Kings says:

    CedarsDevil – Yeah they were somewhat cringeworthy, but I allowed it as he was a great player. Haha.

  35. CedarsDevil says:

    Kings

    Great player with a great sense of humor, I bet him and Pallister were real dressing room jokers

  36. Tears you apart says:

    Aspire 3 – 0 Man utd nil milk cup – second half now on

    Live on BBC sport

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7533717.stm

  37. Kings says:

    CedarsDevil – Absolutely mate.

  38. Zibbie says:

    The day it all started SAF looked great wow. And then watched the 91 Barca win… What a Club…
    Cool…

  39. CedarsDevil says:

    Zibbie

    There is so much for you to catch up on, the more of the history you look into the more you will love the club

  40. Zibbie says:

    I try, I will do any homework assigned.

  41. ZD Red says:

    I used to have one of those french flags with Cantona’s face on it but it went missing (along with a bunch of United scarves and memorabilia) from my parents when they packed up my room after I went off to college. This post just reminded me of how much I miss it and would love to have it back – anyone know where I can get one online?

  42. MancKen says:

    Always a pleasure to read your articles, Mr Oakley. A great link for the young generation to the history of the club, and just how epic Cantona was, because we never grew up watching him orchestrate.

    For similar reasons how Cantona was such a strong influence on you, Keane was my absolute favourite player for being the Captain that he was, a monster of a man, an inspirational leader.

    On a different note, I’m just wondering if the reformed Rooney can take on the mantra (more Cantona than Keane). To be the talisman of this new team, and dictate play like you described how Cantona did.

  43. sigmundv says:

    Giles Oakly is a brilliant author. His articles are long, but worth every second of my time. Thank you Giles for teaching the younger among us (I’m only 28, Cantona’s winner against Liverpool at Wembley in ’96 is my first real memory of United) about the history and the players of this great club we all love.

    Can anyone tell me if Giles has published any book yet? If not, then we must make sure that he does!

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