Cantona: Return of the King - A Sky Sports Originals story
Last Updated: 04/10/15 1:04pm
On October 1, 1995 Manchester United played Liverpool at Old Trafford.
It's arguably the fiercest rivalry in English football, but on that day the game had added spice - Manchester United's No.7 Eric Cantona was returning after an eight-month ban.
This weekend, exactly 20 years on, Sky Sports tells the story of how Cantona returned from his suspension for attacking a Crystal Palace supporter to inspire his team to the double.
In 'Cantona: Return of The King' former team-mates take us back two decades to recall a unique time in Premier League history.
It's Eric's stage, Eric's the lead actor and Eric delivers the best lines
"The build up to him coming back was huge, the media circus was huge - there was a buzz having him back as his presence in the squad was enormous," recalls Gary Neville.
"There were French flags flying everywhere because the talisman was back," says Steve Bruce. "It was as if he'd never been away.
"It was quite incredible that somebody who had been away for so long could come back and have the impact he did straight away, and it lifted everybody."
Cantona was naturally centre stage in the Liverpool game, setting up Nicky Butt to put United ahead, then scoring a 71st minute penalty to earn a point in a 2-2 draw.
Forward Brian McClair says that was inevitable.
"It's Eric's stage, Eric's the lead actor and Eric delivers the best lines," said McClair.
But it was Cantona's influence for the rest of the season that was of greatest significance as he inspired Sir Alex Ferguson's side to overturn a 12-point deficit and pip Newcastle to the title.
"To have him back was like a ship having its captain back," says Nicky Butt.
"He knew how to point us in the direction we wanted to go."
"He strolled out there with his collar up and his chest puffed and it was like, 'don't panic, I'm here to win another title,'" said Gary Pallister.
And Gary Neville believes the post-ban period was when United fans saw Cantona at his peak.
"What Eric did in that last three or four months of the season, he didn't just come back from the ban, he actually went on and delivered his best ever performances," said Neville.
After winning the double in 1995/6, Cantona had one more season with United, captaining the team to a final title before retiring at the age of 30.
"Manchester United has always been associated with superstars as far as I'm concerned," says Steve Bruce.
"And when you look back after 20 years, we had one of the greatest."
CANTONA: RETURN OF THE KING is this Sunday at 6.55pm on Sky Sports 1 following Arsenal v Manchester United or available now On Demand
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