“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” Few aphorisms in football are as bizarre or memorable as the one uttered by Eric Cantona in April 1995 when he addressed the national media three months after his infamous ‘kung fu’ attack on a Crystal Palace fan. ‘The King’, as Manchester United fans called him, was unrepentant for his actions and won his appeal against a prison sentence. It would be a further six months before he would return to action, in a home match with arch-rivals Liverpool. After serving one of the longest bans in football history, Cantona’s impact was instantaneous. He crafted the opening goal after just 67 seconds of the match, teeing up teammate Nicky Butt, before a Robbie Fowler double gave the visitors a 2-1 lead. Poetically, the fate of the match came to rest on Cantona’s shoulders when Ryan Giggs won a 71st-minute penalty. Cantona, hands on hips, oozed confidence before casually stroking the spot-kick into one corner as the goalkeeper dived to the other. The subsequent celebration was distinctly odd: he pole-danced in front of the East Stand. Why such a celebration, you might ask? Because … er, he’s Eric Cantona.
Photograph: Mark Leech/Offside
Words: Jonny Weeks
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