Eric Cantona

1996 FA Cup Final

After his Kung-fu kick on the Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Simmons, the FA suspended Eric Cantona from the  football world for nine months and slapped him with a 10,000 pound fine[1]. After many showdown talks, Alex Ferguson convinced the rebellious Cantona to stay with Manchester United. His return in October was welcomed with a 2-1 victory over old foes Liverpool, with Cantona scoring the winning penalty. But it would take the Frenchman half of the season to find his best form; when it was much needed, ‘The King’ did not fail to deliver. After robbing the league title from a high-flying Newcastle, Manchester United had the chance to secure a historic double by beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final.

It came as a surprise to most of England when Alex Ferguson gave the captaincy to Cantona for the final, with regular captain, Steve Bruce, short of fitness on the day[2]. With five minutes left and the game deadlocked at 0-0, Cantona produced a moment of genius. As the in swinging corner came in from Beckham, Cantona backed up to the edge of the 18-yard box to slash home a brilliant and athletic volley to win the game 1-0. As he wheels away in celebration, you can hear the commentator scream,

“You couldn’t have written a better script.”

Cantona took the chance to prove his critics wrong with much pride. Beating their fiercest rivals in England’s most prestigious competition, redemption never tasted so sweet. In a post match interview Cantona reflects on his roller coaster of a year,

“You know that’s life, up and down.”

Return to European Icons of the 1980s and 1990s

[1] The Life and Times of Cantona

[2] The Life and Times of Cantona

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