‘I have one regret. I would have loved to have kicked him even harder’: Eric Cantona shows no remorse over infamous kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan in 1995 – as Man United legend hails Sir Alex Ferguson for sticking by him ‘like a father’
- Eric Cantona was banned for nine months after kicking Matthew Simmonds
- Now the Frenchman has said his one regret is not kicking the fan even harder
- He has a new film called The United Way that he narrates and co-wrote out in May
- The film touches on the fallout from him playing in a friendly during his ban
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and David Beckham also reflect on Cantona’s retirement
Eric Cantona has reignited the controversy over his assault on a Crystal Palace fan 26 years ago by claiming he wishes he had kicked him harder.
Cantona was banned by the FA for nine months in total after his kung-fu attack on Matthew Simmonds after being sent off playing for Manchester United at Selhurst Park in January 1995. He also pleaded guilty to assault and served a community service period.
Now the Frenchman has spoken out on the subject, saying: ‘I have been insulted thousands of times and have never reacted, but sometimes you are fragile.
Eric Cantona was handed a nine-month ban for kicking Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmonds
Cantona says his one regret is that he didn’t kick Simmonds harder after being verbally abused
Cantona served a community service period after pleading to assault following the incident
‘I have one regret. I would have loved to have kicked him even harder. I was banned for nine months. They wanted me to be an example.’
Cantona, now 54, makes his comments in a new film called The United Way that he narrates and has co-written.
Out on May 24, it charts the growth of the club from the Munich air disaster of 1958 to the modern day.
Cantona was to return to play for United for two more seasons but almost quit the club in the summer of 1995 after he was found to have breached his suspension by playing in a behind-closed-doors friendly. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson persuaded him to stay.
‘It was just a friendly game, but the journalist was on top of a tree outside and he took a picture,’ said Cantona, who had joined United in 1992 from Sunday’s opponents Leeds United.
‘Unfortunately he didn’t fall. The next day it was in the paper and the FA wanted to ban me even more.
‘The manager found the right words like always. And I loved him and respected him. Like a father.
Cantona had a special bond with Sir Alex Ferguson and said he ‘always found the right words’
Cantona arrived at Old Trafford in 1992 after a hugely successful spell at Leeds (pictured)
‘When a manager does something like this to his player, the player will give his life to the manager, to the club and to the fans.
‘They were all behind me. Some clubs maybe would have sacked me but Manchester United offered me a new contract. That’s the difference between Manchester United and the other ones.’
Cantona eventually walked away from United and from football at the end of the 1997 season. He was just 30.
Former team-mate and current United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tells the film: ‘The last game of the league that season, he rented a restaurant for me and Jordi Cruyff and Eric and our families. We had a good time, a great night, celebrated winning the league again.
‘Two days after, I heard on the radio he had retired. He never mentioned one word to us.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) reveals Cantona kept his plans to retire a closely-guarded secret
‘We were dancing, having fun. 4am in the morning. We went home. Not one word. That was Eric in a nutshell.’
Former United and England captain David Beckham also reveals he was ‘devastated’ by Cantona’s decision.
Cantona himself said: ‘I loved the game. I loved the fire inside of me. I loved the adrenaline.
‘I played because as a kid it was my dream. When this dream became routine I didn’t want to play. ‘I wanted to be faithful to myself and the fans and everybody.
‘And there are so many things to do in life. I didn’t have time to waste. It was time to pass the baton on to the next generation.’
David Beckham (centre) was ‘devastated’ when he heard Cantona had decided to stop playing
The United Way airs on Sky Documentaries and NOW on 24th May at 9pm and is also available on Blu-ray, DVD and download-to-own on 10th May