Here’s an outrageous thought that comes straight from the heart – Why? Because the head is certain to respond with so many valid, logical reasons against such an idea that it will never get past first base! Sad because romance has long disappeared out of the game, leaving hard headed pragmatism the one and only basis by which decisions are made…and maybe that’s the way it should remain in today’s multi million dollar football business.
What prompted this nostalgia with all its wonderful memories was the visit of Eric Cantona to Old Trafford on Sunday to watch United beat Liverpool. More than any other club in English football, Manchester United has been blessed with so many legends over the years that it would simply be unfair to select just one as the greatest. There really is no need to name anyone because those football greats are ingrained into the rich history of the club.
If the most influential had to be named however, the record books will undoubtedly suggest that The King will be almost impossible to go past. Cantona proved to be the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle that manager Sir Alex Ferguson had been patiently putting together in order to win the desperately wanted League title for the first time in a quarter of a century.
Ferguson was narrowly denied by a Cantona led Leeds United in his first season in English football but when Sir Alex somehow persuaded Leeds to part with the Frenchman for a mere £1.2 million in November the following season, a dynasty which still continues today was born. Just reflect for a moment on what Cantona achieved during his six seasons in England.
A Championship winning medal at Elland Road was followed by four at United in the next five seasons. The one and only time that Cantona failed to pick up a Premiership winning medal was when he was suspended for the final four months of the 1994-95 season following that infamous ‘kung-fu’ style kick at Crystal Palace. Few would have been prepared to bet against United picking up that extra single point required for another title during that long suspension.
So tantalizingly close yet that one point proved to be so far. Imagine it, the record breaking 19th title being fought for this season would have already been achieved by now, if four successive championships are completed it would mean nothing because FIVE on the trot would have already been done. As if that was not enough, those same years included not one but TWO League-FA Cup doubles before Cantona retired at the age of 30 in 1997!
Therefore when it was recently revealed that Cantona wanted to return to Manchester United as manager to deliver his “beautiful vision” of football, the imagination did not take long to ignite. It absolutely exploded when he continued to explain that “To return to Old Trafford would be an honour, a pleasure. But I must do it in my own style. I will create my own new kind of football – a style, a philosophy of football that has never been seen before – like an artist. I would love to offer you my beautiful vision of football”
The King went on to explain “One of the reasons I retired was that I lost my passion. I was young, I had a lot of things to learn and do. Now I have started to enjoy things like acting, directing, I will go as far as possible with this. When I feel that I cannot go further I will do something else. When I think it is right, I will be a football manager – and I will be a manager in my own way.”
Yes, realism suggests that all this may only be wishful thinking, nothing but a fantasy. Despite that however, an image of Sir Alex with Cantona by his side preparing for the day when Ferguson hands over his empire to The King remains vivid in ones mind. For the football romantics amongst us, it’s the sort of beautiful dream that we never want to wake up from!
What are the chances of Cantona ever becoming manager of Manchester United?