On the 12th GIF of Cantona, Beautifully Red gave to me…
… Eric takes control of the Title race!
So we come to our final GIF of Cantona and all its glorious festive celebration of The King and his class. To mark the end, I wanted to do something special so this final day of Eric will feature lots of GIFs. 6 to be exact, 6 GIFs to help tell the story of the end of the 1995/96 season when Eric Cantona took it upon himself to guide Manchester United to the title.
“You cant win anything with kids” said Alan Hansen on Match of the Day following Uniteds opening day defeat by Aston Villa in the aftermath of United selling Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Anderi Kanchelskis that summer and replacing them in the first team squad with Youth Cup Winners, Nicky Butt, David Beckham & Paul Scholes (as well as Gary & Phil Neville).
Fast forward the to end of Christmas 1995 and Manchester United were sat 2nd in the table, 4 points behind an impressive looking Newcastle United side, entertaining the nation with in form players such as Peter Bearsdley, Les Ferdinand and David Ginola.
United’s kids were doing ok though, scoring goals and playing some fantastic football of their own alongside the more experienced heads of Eric Cantona, Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs (!).
So to Eric Cantona, for he is the reason you are here. Lets skip forward again to January 21st 1996 and have a look at the League Table
United’s form had dropped, with only 2 League wins in the previous 9 games seeing a 12 point gap appear at the top of the table. Newcastle were on fire and strong title favourites.
The Reds, however, responded brilliantly to the challenge presented to them, winning 5 on the bounce and by the time United travelled to Newcastle for a crunch top of the table fixture, Man United were now only 4 points behind (having played 1 extra game).
It was around this time, the previous season, that United had faltered allowing Blackburn Rovers to pip them to the League Title. United knew this season had to be different, and one man decided that this year, in this crucial period, it was to be United’s year.
Eric Cantona took control.
Uniteds next 6 League fixures and results followed like this…
4th March 1996: Newcastle United 0 – 1 Manchester United (Cantona 52)
First v second. A win for Newcastle at home would open their lead at the top of the table to 7 points with a game still in hand.
A string of fine Peter Schmeichel saves kept United in the game and then just after the break, Eric Cantona scored what would be the winner for the Reds…
It was to be a defining moment in the 1995/96 Title race and the start of something very très spécial.
16th March 1996: QPR 1 – 1 Manchester United (Cantona 90)
After a midweek FA Cup Quarter Final win over Southampton in which Cantona scored and brilliantly set one up, United travelled to London to face a QPR side fighting for the Premier League lives.
A Denis Irwin own goal had put the hosts 1-0 and as the clock hit the 90 minutes it was time for Eric to do his thing and rescue a vital point for United…
20th Match 1996: Manchester United (Cantona 65) 1 – 0 Arsenal
United faced Arsenal at Old Trafford looking for 3 points to go level with Newcastle at the top of the table, putting the pressure on them and their trip to Arsenal 3 days later.
In a tight contest, it was a moment of pure magic from that man Cantona, that was the difference…
24th March 1996: Manchester United (Cantona 51) 1 – 0 Tottenham Hotspurs
Newcastle lost their game with Arsenal the day before, so the Reds went into their home fixture with Spurs knowing a win would put them 3 points clear (with 2 extra games played) and really put the pressure on a Newcastle side who had been top for so long.
For the 3rd time in 4 League matches, it was an Eric Cantona goal that was the difference. It was another great solo goal, as he controls the ball, glides past 2 defenders and rolls the ball into the corner of the goal…
6th April 1996: Man City 2 – 3 Manchester United (Cantona 7, Cole 42 , Giggs 78)
After seeing Newcastle lose a thriller versus Liverpool a few days earlier, their 2nd defeat in a row, United went into the Manchester Derby full of confidence and belief that the Title Race was turning in their favour.
Eric Cantona was heavily involved throughout. He put United ahead early with a calmly taken penalty, set up Andy Cole with a brilliant pass and then played in Ryan Giggs to win it in style…
8th April 1996: Manchester United (Cantona 47) 1 – 0 Coventry City
Eric Cantonas’ remarkable goalscoring run was completed at home to Coventry City. His goal yet again being the only goal of the game, as United, thanks to a Newcastle defeat at Blackburn on the same day, went 6 points clear at the top of the table.
Eric’s goal came after good wing play by Ryan Giggs saw a lose ball land inside the box where Cantona pounced and drove the ball home.
Eric Cantona had scored in 6 straight Premier League games. Four 1-0 winners, One last minute equaliser and an opening goal (plus 2 assists) in an away win at City. His goals helped United to 16/18 points at the most important time of the season.
The pressure of the chasing United, and in particular the performances of Eric Cantona got to Newcastle United (and their manager Kevin Keegan), who including the loss to United only won twice in this 6 game period.
The League Table was suddenly looking at lot better
The Reds amazing run came to an end with a 3-1 defeat at Southampton, but they were not to be denied as they went on to win all 3 of their remaining fixtures, including a Cantona inspired 5-0 win v Nottingham Forest, to beat Newcastle United to the title, and reclaim their Premier League crown.
Eric, wasnt finished there as he ended the season with the winning goal in the FA Cup Final versus Liverpool to help guide United to the ‘Double Double’
The impact and influence that Eric Cantona displayed would stick with these kids who would go onto bigger and even better moments, using the lessons they learnt from Eric to help United’s next waves of talented youngsters though the years.
His impact on the club will never forgotten by the fans either, his name still rings around Old Trafford on matchdays.
“Oooh ahh, oooh ahh, oooh ahh Cantona, ooooh ahhh Cantona”
For a brilliant read on Eric’s contribution to the ‘Double Double’, I recommend the brilliant read – ‘The Redemption of Eric Cantona: The Double Double of 1995-96’ by former BBC Head and long time Red, Giles Oakley, over on the Republik of Mancunia – Part One, Part Two & Part Three.
The Full 12 GIFs of Cantona
12 GIFs of Cantona
No 1 – The very begining
No 2 – Counter Attacking brilliance
No 3 – Stunning through-ball assist
No 4 – “It was a pass”
No 5 – Derby Day Delight
No 6 – Thunderous strike
No 7 – On the Volley
No 8 – Would have been a worldy
No 9 – Touch of Class
No 10 – Chip Finish
No 11 – One to win the Cup