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TOP 5: Eric Cantona Goals

It doesn’t need a complicated introduction, so it isn’t going to get one.

Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United 11 May 1996

Liverpool Football Club are a special football club. They used to be undeniably one of the greatest clubs around and produced some of the greatest sides in English and European football history. The reason they are special these days, though, is because they are so spectacularly bad. In a good way. Brendan Rodgers is someone easy to mock, so let’s mock him. He looks absurd, he crucifies the English language and has a staggeringly high opinion of himself for someone who’s taken a mid-table side to mid-table, and indulged the whims of a racist striker with a victim complex.

Before then they had Rafael Benitez, the most overrated manager in history until Kenny Dalglish took over, who then became the most overrated manager in history who also indulged the whims of a racist striker with a victim complex.

But way before all that mulch of embarrassment, there was the loam of Roy Evans. A fundamentally decent man hampered by the fact he was Liverpool through-and-through, he oversaw a deeply funny moment. The suits. The suits. The suits, the suits. The suits, the suits, the suits. Turning up to your wedding day in a white suit would mark you out a stunningly arrogant fool, but imagine turning up to something as important as an FA Cup final in a white suit, and to be joined with all your teammates. This was an absence of self-awareness not seen on a scale since a Barcelona player last gave an interview about doping.

The FA Cup itself was no classic. It doesn’t matter. It matters because for all the white suits, for all the Liverpool-United aggro, it was settled by the closest thing to Jesus that actually did exist. It matters because it was United’s first ever double double. The ball came to him on the edge of the area, he arched and squashed all of his joints to volley the winner in the 80-something (you check if it matters to you) minute. Against Liverpool. Who were wearing those suits. In the FA Cup Final. Against Liverpool. Who were wearing those suits. Against Liverpool. White suits*.

*They took them off before the game itself but this is all but a technicality.

Having a word with an arsehole vs Crystal Palace 25 January 1995

There are some people who think this doesn’t count as a goal. There are some people who think that this is something that should not be celebrated. Essentially, there are two groups of people in the world: people willing to embrace the times that violence is not only acceptable, but necessary, and there are those who you should never buy a drink for, or engage in discussion with. Gandhi: what a cunt.

A great goal always features some, if not all of the following feelings. One, putting the world to rights with a sense of justice. The second, that it is unique, something you understand will never be repeated or intimidated, that you really are one of a select group people in a moment of time that can never be forgotten. Whether at a stadium or on television, there’s an ineffable and unspoken agreement that what has happened will not be footnote in history – history will be a footnote of the event itself. Lastly, that it makes you happy whenever you look back on it.

For all those reasons, this is a goal. The kung fu kick on a xenophobic arsehole, who had been goading him with the entitled sense of invulnerability rarely seen before commenters on the internet, is unique. No other player-crowd contretemps has stuck in the memory or defined a player. No other boot-chest synthesis brings back the Kennedy sensation of knowing exactly when you heard it. No other hero-villain face-off brings such glee to Manchester United fans. If a goal is a prerequisite to victory, then this moment would play a vital part in establishing a siege mentality, a (justified) Messiah complex and a legendary comeback that would be entwined in United’s history, and something that would inspire the team to never give up.

Sheffield United 2-0 Manchester United 9 January 1995

Sheffield United have been kind to Manchester United. Mainly, that is, because they gave them their greatest sending off of all time. A sending off that sums up Mark Hughes, the manager, perfectly. With the game waiting to be euthanised with the final whistle, but still a while away, Mark Hughes punted David Tuttle up the arse as the ball went out of play. It was full of pointless aggression – defining Mark Hughes the manager. But that was another match.

There’s more to Sheffield United than that. There’s the Eric Cantona chip. A year later, the same round, the same tie. Manchester United have, recently, disingenuously traded on the idea that they still play football with verve and style. They don’t, they’re just good at doing enough. They also trade on the idea that they play counter-attacking football. This is less unreasonable. You can see the current Manchester United – perhaps most accurately the 2006-2009 vintage – in this attack. From an opposition corner, United break. Bruce is lucky to find Cantona, who lays the ball to Hughes – not sent off for booting anyone up the arse in this game – who plays the ball to Ryan Giggs, on the left wing. Giggs sees that Cantona has advanced on the right hand side, and rolls the ball across to him, on the edge of the area. The goal is quite something – a precise and beautiful chip that was far too good for such limited opponents, yet still obviously good enough to test any of the best – but it’s the celebration that makes it.

He gradually realises what he’s just done, as if he is still processing his actions. It’s like he is catching up to find out what he’s done in an episode of rage – smashed a chair, smashed a player, smashed himself – and then finds out he’s scored an almost perfect goal. It looks in one sense arrogant, as other players come to him, and he doesn’t move a step. But in another way it looks like he’s actually made himself speechless and discombobulated, as if he was starting to realise his arrogance at other clubs was finally vindicated. He was as good as he said, and now he was at the right club to prove it.

Perhaps even more enjoyable is Alex Ferguson’s reaction. He’d managed greats, he’d won European trophies and Premier Leagues. You’d seen him smile before, but not quite like this. The joy of achievement is one thing, but in Ferguson’s face you can see the joy of incredulity in the face of unexpected, and yet instantly, retrospectively inevitable, excellence.

Manchester United 5-0 Sunderland 21 December 1996

The commentary says most of what you need. At a time of iffy form, having not scored in open play for three months, Cantona proves his class. Using Brian McClair as a way around Sunderland’s midfield, he shows that the Sheffield United chip was no fluke. Then there’s the celebration. A contrast from the static surprise and shock of his chip against Sheffield United, this is one of a man who didn’t doubt what he was capable of. But the goal is not most notable for its excellence, it’s for that on YouTube and in season reviews, it is melancholic excellence. It is the definition of beauty being seen in decay. It is comparable to a sharp, genuine memory of true love in the haze of Alzheimer’s. It is the moment when you wake up in the marital bed the day after losing a spouse, before the grief hits.

It might be that, having known he was capable of such greatness, yet able to produce it less frequently or without enjoying it as it evidently should be enjoyed, he realised the game was up in this very moment.

Liverpool 2-2 Manchester United 1 October 1995

It might have taken Jesus three days to rise again and Eric Cantona eight months, but there can be no doubt about who was really worth waiting for. Cantona had apparently expected the four month ban from United to assuage the FA after his escapades of breaking the fourth wall. The ban was then extended to eight months, and the sardines of the press followed the trawler. Ferguson was then forced to follow Cantona all the way to Paris to persuade him not to give up on England and United. The sense of injustice was palpable. All he’d done was kick a dickhead!

It was without doubt the right decision to return. Cantona came back to inspire the kids, showing them the dual requirements of passion and practice. Without Cantona there might not have been the treble. Without Cantona there might not have been the Manchester United of the third millennium. His presence cannot be overstated in importance. But, and this is as important, without Cantona and his comeback there would not have been this goal against Liverpool.

Vindication was his on the day he came back, but it didn’t stop there. Vindication would come again and again, confirmed with every goal and trophy of his time at Manchester United. But still further, with this goal and this comeback, vindication was secured with every single future Manchester United trophy and goal after he had left. Without him, it wouldn’t have been like this.

———
Alexander Netherton is currently writing The Diary of Love and Hate: 2012/13 Season with Andi Thomas. Follow Alexander on Twitter.

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87 Comments

  1. wayne says:

    NBI he sees himself as more of a DM and so does Moyes I think he’s quality and very underrated by some on here.Only 25 so plenty of upside and at 23 mill seems like a bargain to me.A lot see him as a goon I like the way he mixs it up,the bigger the game the more he wants it plus causes havoc at set plays, just have to wait and see but I like him

  2. Sushi says:

    If we can truly get Thiago for 17M then that’s a bargain. Some people here seem to have forgotten we dropped around the same for a much less proven Anderson and another 17m for Nani and another 17-20M for Hagreaves. Fact is our midfield is in such dire straights that we can afford to turn our nose at a quality player just because of their build or some other unproven negative point.

    Our midfield needs Guild, craft, creativity and hard work. You’re unlikely to find a player that check marks every single category but that’s the point we need more than one player to augment Carrick. Think about it Liverfool blew 20M on an absolute garbage player in Henderson. Fuck the English stereotype of some big lumbering asshole who can run box to box.

    Lets not forget Paul Scholes the genius himself was hardly an imposing presence in Midfield. but he was an absolute passing genius with creativity and pure power in those shots of his.

  3. Sushi says:

    sorry that was a Can’t not a can.

  4. Sushi says:

    Also lets not forget we have a bright future in our youngsters we just need 1-2 players to bridge the current quality and time gap till we can develop the likes of Powell and other academy stars.

  5. Sushi says:

    Also can someone clear up something for me..why does he play for Spanish national team if hes born in Italy but his background is Brazilian lol??? his dads a World cup winner sign him up i say

  6. glory Glory Holy Trin says:

    Yo baby man u gonna kick city’s ass, go go thiago :-)

  7. glory Glory Holy Trin says:

    I’m hoping isco doesn’t come to city.
    Isco > thiago

  8. wayne says:

    Sushi maybe his mum is Spanish,no one is saying he isn’t value mate don’t know who your first rant was aimed

  9. safichan says:

    thiago and strootman…come on…but why not for isco too…

  10. wayne says:

    Holy you’re just a one trick pony mate it’s getting really fucking boring.Maybe sign up for Troll school and come back with a better game plan

  11. glory Glory Holy Trin says:

    Safi chan mate we cannot compete against wealth of city and hence man u not trying.. Isco is next iniesta

  12. Sushi says:

    @ Wayne lol fair point mate just a rant ignore it now

  13. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Glory trin – time to take your daily pills you cunt, you’re lost.

  14. Sushi says:

    Who is this Glory Trin twat?? I see him from time to time making the most idiotic posts fuck off back to city then

  15. Marq says:

    Hmm… Seems we are getting closer to getting Thiago. Would be so funny now if it was all media created. Not counting my eggs until it happens

  16. glory Glory Holy Trin says:

    Sammy mate just a regular man u fan, chill

  17. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Arsenal have NO chance at getting any united player, wenger is selling you lies.

  18. gd says:

    is the how-exciting-exclusive-transfer-story-on-friday the higuain to arsenal news? what a letdown!

  19. TheCANTONA says:

    glory is a chavs scum, first appeared here when scott posts about ferdinand’s family and CLLC.

  20. TheCANTONA says:

    gd:
    do u want us to sign higuain?

  21. samuel - united WE stand says:

    Wakey – thiago will need time to get used to the tempo and speed of the PL as you’d expect, it is unrealistic to expect him to hit the ground running instantly but in my opinion, technique prevails these days and thiago has an abundance of it, I think the idea that all players need to the incredible hulk to play in the PL is mythical, I think all he needs to do is get used to the tempo which may take time but then again the lad is sharp and mobile across the ground, he will also need upper body strenghth to hold his own but looking at paul scholes as some have said recently, he’s barely imposing but his tenacity and general class made him stand out, thiago has all that. I’m not getting my hopes up, only waiting to see if this will be realistic but if united manage to get him, it would be a massive statement from moyes.

  22. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Morning reds

    Rooney to Arsenal? ………………….. :lol:

    Go on then….. Tell me another.. ;)

  23. samuel - united WE stand says:

    FletchTheMan – Nice try from wenger to sell season tickets.

  24. gd says:

    theCANTONA: not at all! i just expected it to be something that hasn’t been in the papers for days.

  25. reddy says:

    Piss poor…The Gandhi comment was uncalled for.

  26. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Off topic:

    United’s July 13 preseason opener Bangkok is under threat. FIFA Rules Dispute with Thailand FA needs sorting next week. 3 other EPL teams also have games in Thailand that are considered at risk.

    Sky had an interview with the outgoing Thai FA Rep who sounded unsure about what would happen.
    Bit strange.

    http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1481739/david-moyes-manchester-united-bow-cancelled

  27. AlphaRS says:

    4-2-3-1
    De Gea, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Rafael, Carrick, Strootman, Ronaldo, Kagawa, Alcantara, Van Persie.
    Strootman, Ronaldo, and Alcantara would be great thanks. But no use signing Ronaldo when we could do with a few midfielders to freshen things up and mix it up a bit. Personally I think £80,000,000 on a 28 year old is crazy money but I guess that means we can ask for money in sponsorship deals to make up for it.

  28. Rukky says:

    Keep possession, dictate play, and anticipate play well: Less physicality would be needed in d middle if we can do this and have a all round solid defence. U all know how many goals come from the left back position. I definately see our young defenders improving under moyes.

  29. enzophonics says:

    This transfer window could prove very fruitful for United – the Under 21s, U-20s, ConfedCup all showcasing talent, some still under the radar.

    Would be great if Utd made a cheeky bid for Thiago as well as Rafinha (younger brother) who plays for Brazil and further forward, or C. Tello from Barca.

    Any RoM’ers opinion on potential players who could come into United from the recent U-21s?

  30. fasoel09 says:

    Here is what i expect next season’s manutd lineup

    DDG

    Rafael Vidic Rio Evra

    Carrick

    Tiago Kagawa

    Nani Zaha

    RVP

    Frighting Frighting Frighting

  31. one two says:

    I see some of u making team lineups excluding Rooney…he will be here four sure..a request to all red devils..never under estimate Rooney..this guy knows how to play epl.. he has massive experience which no else can replace.. just imgine if rvp gets injured who will lead the front line.. we all know what happened when rvp had bad run of 10 games.. at that time Rooney came to rescue.. just because we have rvp please don’t push Rooney out..he has been here for 9 long seasons..197 goals..just think my friends 197 goals..and loads of assists..played out of position to accommodate ronaldo..berbatov and rvp..just show some respect to him..

  32. wayne says:

    fasoe109 unlikely Zaha is going to be a regular might not even be at the club and only way Nani stays if he can’t find a club to pay his wage demands.For Utd Kagawa looked the part at num 10 last season not so effective on the left.Thiago hasn’t signed yet,it’s probably 50/50 if Rooney will leave thinking he’s finding out like Nani just not that many takers.I’m sure they’ll be other additions so think your line up is way off mate.

  33. Phil Jones' Birdshit Streaks says:

    As ‘one two’ said, Rooney will definitely be here. His beef was with Fergie for playing him out of position and dropping him for key games. Whether he’s right or wrong is a moot point, but I imagine he will have had talks with Moyes already and more talks when Moyes starts work officially. I hope we do not get Fellaini. I rate him, but I don’t think he’s s special talent and definitely not good enough for United. Thiago and possibly Strootman, would do me fine. Bed Zaha in, clear out a few names that are surplus to requirement and we’re set.

    There’s also the pipe dream of Ronaldo coming back, but the more it lingers on and the more we spend on other players, I’m not sure if it will happen – at least not this year. But fuck me… if it did, AND we get Thiago and Rooney stays, that’d be fucking ridiculous!

  34. wayne says:

    Phil Jones it’s been reported a few times the Ronnie deal would be over and above the transfer money Moyes has been given.If the Ronnie deal comes off sponsors are going to play a part mainly Nike and GM.

  35. Wakey says:

    @samuel
    Its hardly a myth as many skilful players have taken time to adjust to the physicality and many never have. People seem to think bulking up means turning into Ronaldo levels of muscles and use that as a basis to say physicality is a myth but that’s not the case. Watch Kagawa last season he just wasn’t physically strong enough so was often bullied off the ball, sometimes his skill offset this but he still struggled regularry. The same happened with Hazard and Oscar.

    All 3 if they work on becoming stronger should become more consistant and should find themselves bulled less often but if they don’t they won’t ever fulfil their potential as you need to be a much more rounded player to be a star in England so technical skill will only go so far

  36. Rukky says:

    Day 2. Where the hell is the big news? Sepp graham. It would be really messed up if its just the media. Again man united and moyes choose silent treatment. Frustrating 10 more days 4 fans.

  37. Phil Jones' Birdshit Streaks says:

    Interesting, wayne. I suppose Nike would love for it to happen, as then their star icon wouldn’t be prancing around in an Adidas kit at Real. On that note, I wonder how Adidas feel about Messi wearing Barca’s Nike kit? Conflict of interest on behalf of all parties involved!

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