Twenty years ago a monumental telephone conversation took place between the Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards and Bill Fotherby, who was chairman at Leeds.
Bill Fotherby inquired about the availability of Denis Irwin for transfer across the Pennines to Elland Road. That question was rebuffed with nil debate.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson was present in the chairman’s office at the time. Recalling a conversation he had overheard between Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister discussing Eric Cantona and his own knowledge of the Frenchman. The manager slipped Edwards a note, written on it; ‘ask him about Eric Cantona. ‘
Leeds were League Division One champions at the time, and were willing to negotiate for Cantona.
It wasn’t long before Cantona signed the dotted line for Manchester United. He cost the Reds £1.2 million in November 1992. Yes that is correct… £1.2 million, not a typing error.
Alex Ferguson said it was one of the best decisions he’s made in his managerial career. ” Oh yeah, absolutely, no doubt about that ” he acknowledges. ” There was a bit of fortune attached to it but that’s life. Fate’s fate you get the lucky breaks. That was a lucky break for us. ”
In Cantona’s first season at Old Trafford, United won the inaugural Premier League title, 10 points ahead of runners up Aston Villa. The King proved to be the final piece of Ferguson’s jigsaw to ensure United won the top division for the first time in 26 years.
In achieving this Cantona became the first player to win back-to-back English Top Division titles with different clubs.
In Eric Cantona’s 5 years at United, he won the Premier League 4 times, in seasons 92-93, 93-94, 95-96, and 96-97. The FA Cup twice in seasons 93-94, and 95-96. The Charity Shield three times in seasons 93, 94, and 96. Cantona went on to score 82 goals in 185 appearances for United.
The Frenchman aided in putting in place the foundations for Ferguson’s record breaking tenure. In the eyes of many Reds, he is regarded as Fergie’s most crucial signing ahead of critical purchases like Brian McClair, Peter Schmeichel, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Wayne Rooney.
Cantona nurtured the class of 92 as he was the springboard for Manchester United to go on the richest vein of form in the clubs history.
When the Scot took charge in November 1986, United were positioned 21st in the old First Division. We were a club very much in the shadow of the likes of Liverpool, who were winning European Cups and League titles regularly. Cantona was the impetus for Ferguson needed to go on. Today we look at Manchester United with over 20 major trophies in the 26 years since his move south from Aberdeen. The haul of trophies include 12 Premier League titles, the UEFA Champions League twice, the FA cup 5 times, 4 League Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.
While Ferguson had the recently unveiled statue adjacent to the stand named after himself, he recognizes the major importance of signing Eric Cantona and just how much the King was Manchester United’s ace in the pack. Thank an immense ‘ twist of fate ‘ Leeds, Denis Irwin and Sir Alex Ferguson for delivering to the United stage the preening mercurial French magician.
So today the 26th of November 2012, twenty years on from that eventful phone call push your chest out, turn up your collar and remember Eric Cantona who signed for Manchester United 20 years ago today. The catalyst that added a new dimension to United.