Leeds’ loss is our gain as Cantona leads the charge to title glory…
Do you remember the first time? Like you could ever forget. An end to 26 barren titleless years, the four-games-in-eight-days heartbreak of the previous campaign wiped from memory. But what didn’t kill us made us stronger – incidentally, where are Leeds United now?
The default image of that inaugural Premiership win remains the delirious celebrations following the second of Steve Bruce’s towering headers against Sheffield Wednesday. That mad mid-April afternoon, the greatest comeback since Lazarus, and the best before Turin and the Nou Camp, was the second of seven wins on the spin. That run, the feeling that, finally, this must be it, saw off Norwich City’s challenge and sent Aston Villa into a spectacular tailspin – the winning margin was 10 points.
The talismanic Cantona, an early Christmas present from Elland Road, was the hub of the wheel, whether scuffing home the equaliser in a mad 3-3 draw at Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day, or orchestrating a 5-0 rampage through Coventry’s defence and the 4-1 smashing of Spurs in the following two games.
When the nerves jangled, there were heroes in waiting; 16-goal Mark Hughes, so close to glory in the mid-1980s and now a champion at last; the giant Schmeichel, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin and Parker in defence, Ince and the veteran McClair in midfield, and on the left flank, a young Ryan Giggs. Just 19, he played in all but one game.
The boss’s promise to relight the cinders of the Busby era had flickered boldly into life: a glorious blaze that has illuminated the landscape ever since.
Points tally: 84
Nearest challenger: Aston Villa (74 points)
Most appearances: Bruce, Pallister, Schmeichel (42)
Top scorer: Mark Hughes (15)
Player of the season: Paul Ince
Remember when he was one of your heroes? The pre-Keano midfield dynamo, he was utterly outstanding.
The road to victory: title no.8
Goals For: 67
Goals Against: 31
Biggest win: 5-0 v Coventry (H)