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I retired from football at 25 – then became Manchester United’s biggest legend



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Manchester United started their dominance of English football in the 1990s under Sir Alex Ferguson, and there were few players more important to that than Eric Cantona.

Cantona joined United in the summer of 1992 after winning the first division with Leeds United.

His temperament and personality were firey and seemed difficult to control. Sir Alex Ferguson was criticised for the signing at the time.

However, the move ended up being one of the best in United history, with Cantona leading a United team to win four Premier League titles in his five years at the club.

Ferguson knew exactly how to treat the Frenchman to get the best out of him, and while there were still issues, he is now considered one of the club’s greatest-ever legends.

What is more remarkable is that Cantona was prepared to leave the game for good only months before he ended up coming to England.

In December 1991, while playing for Nimes, Cantona was banned for two months after throwing a ball at a referee. He announced his retirement soon afterwards and spent several months away from the pitch.

Then-French manager Michel Platini had a huge influence in getting the Frenchman back into the game. He joined Leeds United in England to find a better environment.

“As a young player, it’s difficult to deal with everything. Every step is a challenge every time. So, after the national team, after I became international, maybe I didn’t deal very well with some things,” Cantona admitted when speaking on The Rest is Football.

“And for some players, it’s time to realise, or not, they disappeared completely. And I’ve been lucky to have this reaction and say, ‘Maybe I am the problem’. And I have to find a place, maybe, somewhere where I can feel better.

“So, it’s why I came to England. Because before I came to England, I retired from football. I was 24 or 25 years old. I retired for three months.

“Platini, who was the manager of France, asked me, he said, you cannot retire now, you have to come back. And I said, no, I don’t want to go back to football. I don’t want to go to a Mediterranean country. He said, maybe England, it’s possible. So, it’s how I came to England.

“And then, of course, I met everything I needed. And I had this freedom. I had this feeling of freedom when I came here.”

Cantona made 184 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 82 goals and registering 62 assists.

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