Manchester United legend Eric Cantona has revealed that ‘ghosts of the past’ helped inspire him to greatness at Old Trafford, feeding off the energy of the club’s storied history.
Cantona moved from Leeds to United in late 1992 after helping the Yorkshire club claim the final league title of the pre-Premier League era, before crossing the divide of one of the country’s fiercest rivalries. He was already an established France international but had found himself needing to start afresh in England after disciplinary issues had ended his club career back home.
The enigmatic star quickly went on to pave the way for a generation of success at Manchester United, proving to be a catalytic figure during early Premier League dominance, whilst also serving as a mentor-type figure to a new generation of home-grown talent.
Cantona joined a United side under immense pressure to deliver. The club hadn’t won a league title since 1967 and were pipped by his Leeds side at the end of the 1991/92 season.
Plenty of big names had struggled to meet the expectations, but Cantona found the historic success of previous eras to be a boost rather than something that would paralyse him with fear.
“I felt the step [from Leeds] and I also felt the ghosts of the past of Manchester United. Sometimes, the ghosts of the past, some players, it can paralyse them. But, for me, it was helpful. I felt the energy of the past and it made me even stronger,” he explained on BT Sport’s What I Wore.
Cantona soon came to embody success at Old Trafford and was the latest in what was already then a growing list of iconic players to have worn the number seven shirt.
“When I arrived in Manchester, Bryan Robson was number seven. Then I started to play with the number seven because Bryan Robson was…old, too old,” he said.
“I love this number. The number I have on the back is important to how I feel. If I don’t feel good, I cannot play well. When I wore this shirt for the first time, it was like I’d had it forever.”
Cantona also addressed his goal celebrations, insisting none were ever rehearsed or pre-planned, allowing the ‘unique’ moment to dictate his reaction every time.
“I never thought, before games, about celebrations,” he said. “I never celebrated a goal in the same way because it’s always a special and unique moment. Sometimes now, you see players, they practice or have a t-shirt under their shirt every time.
“It depends on the goal, the meaning of the goal, if it’s the first minute of the game, the last minute of the game. It depends on the pressure, the energy…everything. I never thought about it. I did it just like this [clicks fingers], very spontaneous.”
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