Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Cantona the Catalyst for United Surge

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Cantona the Catalyst for United Surge

Article excerpt

"HI Martin, how are you?" It was the phone call that changed the course of United's history. In November 1992, Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby cheekily asked his counterpart, Martin Edwards, whether he would be willing to sell left-back Denis Irwin.

The answer was a polite no but before he put the phone down, a thought flashed through Edwards' mind.

"Eric Cantona - is he for sale?" There was a short pause. "You know, that's not as stupid as it may sound," Fotherby replied. "Let me find out. I'll come back to you."

Countless versions of the story have emerged down through the years. Was the transfer fee £1m or £1.6m? Did Sir Alex Ferguson slide Edwards a note across the table to ask about Cantona? Was he even present? The reality was a little different. "I think had Bill Fotherby not enquired about Denis Irwin, Eric would never have become a United player," Edwards told M.E.N. Sport.

"There's no way I would have picked up the phone. Alex never mentioned signing him, it was just a fortuitous phone call."

Something changed when Cantona arrived - and helpfully his team-mates knew how to bail the maverick out when that famous temper of his flared up.

"Every time he lost the ball we tried to win it back for him because we wanted him to stay on the pitch," former team-mate Paul Parker told M.E.N. Sport.

"He wasn't nasty, he just could not relate to making a mistake - even in training."

Cantona had won the title just a few months previously with Leeds after United's season unravelled in April, 1992. Eight days, four games, three defeats.

That memory spurred the players on in the new Premier League era as they desperately fought to end their 26-year hoodoo.

"We were inspired by Alan Hansen," Brian McClair told M.E.N. Sport. "He said on Match of the Day, 'That's the best chance they will get. The players will be unable to respond. …

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