When Eric Cantona launched into the crowd at Selhurst Park to fight a fan, his Manchester United teammates expected the forward to get Sir Alex Ferguson’s enthusiasm.
The boss was famous for his “hair dryer treatment” – named for his passionate nature – and it was surely an occasion that demanded it.
On January 25, 1995, after being sent off in a league match at Crystal Palace, Cantona stunned the football world by assaulting a fan as he was leaving the pitch.
Anyone watching the BBC documentary on the rise of the Premier League will wonder if this actually happened. Yes. Yes he did.
Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons had upset the player so much as he walked past him that it resulted in one of the most extraordinary events in English football history.
It later emerged that the supporter had shouted, “F *** come back to France, French mother *****”, and Cantona was later widely praised for trying to literally kick racism out of football.
But his teammates assumed he was still being blamed.
Recalling the January incident earlier this year, Cantona’s teammate Andy Cole told talkSPORT it was all surreal.
“I haven’t joined Newcastle for a long time, so I’m only a few games away from my Manchester United career.
“When it happened, I wasn’t even sure what was going on if I was being brutally honest.
“I was a bit in the middle of the field, but I wasn’t sure if a bettor ran and started on Eric or Eric did what he did.
“When it all went down and everyone started running towards the sideline, I was a little upset about what had happened.
“I didn’t see the incident properly until I saw it on TV and that’s when I was like ‘wow’.
“It was surreal.”
Enter Ferguson, the man who ruled Old Trafford with an iron fist. He’s never been afraid to fall out with his biggest stars, as David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane will tell you.
“Some of the boys were like, ‘The gaffer is going to lose him now.’ This for me, to this day, I still laugh to myself.
“I remember the gaffer came in and he was absolutely pissed off, the game ended 1-1. We lost two points, we didn’t win the game and he is furious.
“He started having a barney in a few people, then he said to Eric, ‘What are you thinking? You can’t keep doing things like that ”.
That was it ?
“Everyone sat there in the locker room and just said ‘No’,” Cole said with a laugh.
Known as “King Eric” by Old Trafford loyalists, Cantona scored 82 goals and won four league titles, including two FA Cup doubles with the Red Devils, but later admitted it was. his favorite moment in a United jersey.
“My best moment? I have a lot of good times, but my favorite part is when I kicked the hooligan, ”the Old Trafford icon once said.
And that sums it up. One of the most enigmatic characters to ever grace the game. He certainly did things his own way.