Giggs: Eric was just cool
In 1994, Ryan Giggs released a book, My Story, in which he delivered this insider take on Eric Cantona’s influence on United’s 1994 Double winners…
“Eric Cantona is known by Brucie and some of the others simply as Ooh-Aah, after his chant. Everything about Eric is cool. Unlike, say, Pally, he can wear anything and look the business. He came into training the other day in ripped jeans, a denim jacket and trainers and looked a different class. If anyone else had worn that they wouldn’t have got away with it.
To play with him is a dream. Eric is the extra dimension in our team. When he was suspended toward the end of last season, you could see that. And when he came back it lifted us all. He is the best passer I have ever seen. He brings people into the game, up front, midfield, wherever he goes, he gives us so much variety.
People try to put a block on him, but he’s forever thinking of ways to evade his marker, create space for himself. And while they’re concentrating on him, they forget about Sparky or Andrei who revel in the extra space, so they might be better off leaving him to it.
When Eric gets the ball he is brilliant at putting it out on to the wing. He can judge how fast we can run – me, Sharpey, Andrei – and he puts balls out to us so perfectly weighted it means we don’t even have to break stride. I think he knows how fast the full back can run too. Often when Eric gets the ball you can’t conceive that a pass is on, but you have to make the run and get ahead of the defender because, just as it looks as if he’s lost it, he’ll pop it through his marker’s legs and out to you. And if you’re not ready for it, he’ll roast you.
He’s such a strong personality, Eric. When we won the title for the first time, it was just after he’d arrived and a lot of us players, including me, were saying: ‘OK, but when the going gets tough, where will he be?’ It’s proved exactly the opposite. Given the amount of stick he got in the press, he had to be a big man to shrug it off. And I’ve never known a player want to get involved like he does, demanding the ball all the time. Even if he’s having a bad game, he’ll work hard for the team.
He didn’t even have that good a game against Chelsea in the Cup final against Chelsea, but when it came to taking the penalties, he grabbed the ball. There was no question in his mind he was going to take them, and no doubt in my mind he was going to score. Brucie couldn’t watch. He sat on the halfway line, facing the other way. But I could watch. With Eric, you know it will go in.
All that stuff about ‘the ball responding to my touch like a woman to the caresses of a man she loves’ makes us laugh too, but the thing about Eric is he works so hard to justify the poetry. When you see Eric Cantona staying on for extra training, brushing up on his skills, it makes you realise you can’t be satisfied with what you’re doing. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter what we call each other, who can dance, or who dresses well. For a football team what counts is what you do on the pitch.”