“If it was someone else other than the policeman, then maybe I would have reacted differently.”
Eric Cantona, speaking to James O’Brien on JOE’s Unfiltered podcast, has confirmed one of the most famous stories about him, a story which Roy Keane recounted in his autobiography.
It relates to Manchester United’s infamous trip to Istanbul to play the second-leg of a Champions League tie with Galatasaray in 1993.
The first-leg between the Turkish club and the Premier League champions ended 3-3 at Old Trafford, meaning that United needed to win the game in Istanbul to progress. There were just over 30,000 fanatical Galatasaray supporters lying in wait at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, and they made their presence felt. The atmosphere was fervent.
Security was tight around the game, and the Turkish police officers looked as ready for action as any of the players on the Galatasaray team, adding a layer of tension to an already toxic atmosphere.
United had a brilliant team, featuring Ryan Giggs, Denis Irwin, Peter Schmeichel, Gary Pallister and Paul Ince, as well as Cantona and Keane, and would go on to win the double that season. But Alex Ferguson’s early years in the Champions League were a steep learning curve, as the team’s attacking style didn’t transfer well to the more cautious, tactical approach deployed in continental matches.
In 1993, they were appearing on the biggest stage in European football for the first time, and, in addition to a degree of naivety, Ferguson’s…