22 Feb 2022 | 06:09
Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex when facing off on the pitch
At that time, Eric Cantona was suspended by the French Football Federation for throwing the ball at the referee and even announced his retirement from professional football.
Ferguson told United’s website in May 2021: “I was at a game in Paris, sitting next to [France manager] Michel Platini and [his assistant] Gerard Houllier.”
“Platini told me – this is the moment he [Cantona] is suspended from French football. You should go and sign Cantona.’ I said: ‘Isn’t he the problem?’ He said, ‘If you recognize him and get him on the team, I’ll let you know he’s a great player.’ Gerard Houllier has attested to that precisely.”
Ferguson’s hesitation cost Man Utd, when Cantona signed for Leeds in January 1992 after a brief trial at Sheffield Wednesday – then a top club.
Ferguson finally got the chance to sign Cantona 10 months later after Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby phoned United director Martin Edwards to inquire about Denis Irwin and open the door for the Reds to sign Cantona. .
“We offered £1m but Bill asked we said it was £1.6m to appease the Leeds fans,” Edwards recalls.
During his five years at Old Trafford, Cantona won four Premier League titles , two FA Cups and three Charity Shields. Cantona was also voted PFA Player of the Year for the years 1993 and 1994 and the Football Writers Association of the Year for the 1995/96 season. He suddenly announced his retirement from professional football at the end of the 1996/97 season despite being only 30 years old.