At the end of the 1996-97 season, Eric Cantona devastated Manchester United fans by making the shock decision to retire. Having played 50 games for us that season and a few weeks from turning 31, it was announced the Frenchman was hanging up his boots.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who joined the club in Cantona’s final season, has told the official site that just days earlier he had been celebrating the title with the Frenchman and his family but hadn’t mentioned a thing about retiring.
After the West Ham game, when we beat them in the last game of the season, he rented a restaurant called Tarantella in Poynton, just for his family and friends, his dad and his brother, and me and my wife and Jordi [Cruyff] and his girlfriend, and so it was just us three players there.
We had a party, danced all night, doing the famous Pulp Fiction dancing, I can still remember Eric being up there! At 4am, we said our goodbyes and, a couple of days later, me and Jordi and our partners went down to London, and, as we arrived in London, we got off the train and it was on the radio that Eric Cantona had decided to retire. That’s just Eric for you – he had never mentioned anything to us when we were partying two days before. It was disappointing but I really enjoyed my year with him. What a character. I learned so much from him.
Solskjaer reflected on another moment which summed Cantona up, with him defying Sir Alex Ferguson and getting away with it.
Y’know, when we had corner kicks Becks was always over there to take them and before the game the gaffer says: ‘David on the corners.’ So we come in at half-time and the gaffer’s saying: ‘Eric, what have I told you? It’s Becks on the corners’ because Eric had been taking them all. Eric shrugs and, when we go out again, first corner of the second half, who goes over to take it…? Eric. He had a special way about him.