Sir Alex Ferguson once described the day Eric Cantona retired as the “luckiest break” as Manchester United manager.
Cantona called time on a glittering playing career in 1997 after winning four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and three Charity Shields in five years at Old Trafford.
His retirement was came as something of a shock, considering the Frenchman was a relatively young 30 years old, and had a year remaining on his contract.
He had just played a crucial part in yet another Premier League title win, and although he was linked with a move to Real Zaragoza, Cantona stayed true to his word and retired.
Now aged 50, the striker had to be convinced not to call time on his playing career while he was serving a suspension for kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace supporter in 1995.
According to David Walker of the Daily Mirror, it was controversial incidents such as that which meant that Ferguson was glad when his star player bowed out.
‘I was with Sir Alex Ferguson at a dinner in Dublin when he was asked about what constituted the luckiest break in his career.
‘Fergie replied: “The day Eric walked into my office to retire.”
‘Fergie had read the script that Eric was not at the peak of his creative powers any longer but was also well aware that he remained the fans’ favourite, the undisputed King of Old Trafford. Cantona’s career was littered with evidence that his parting from clubs was always laced with bitter recriminations. Ferguson knew that if he dropped his French talisman the following season he would not not just be annoying the player, he’d be angering United’s adoring faithful.’