FourFourTwo's 100 best foreign Premier League players ever: No.3, Eric Cantona

The King was crowned over five majestic seasons at Old Trafford, having brought with him a unique brand of Gallic bombast that dovetailed with the class to complement it. Nobody was quite like Eric – as Lee Sharpe explains

Lee Sharpe, Eric Cantona

I remember Eric playing in a reserve game against Leeds after he’d come back from his ban, and there was 20,000 people in the ground.

He got injured after about half an hour and had to go off, but he came on the public address system at half-time to apologise. It was hilarious because we thought the ground would be empty when we ran out for the second half – but everyone stayed, probably because of Eric’s apology.

He could basically do no wrong at Old Trafford – we’d always joke that he was the manager’s long-lost son; that there was some kind of blood connection there. He was treated differently to every other person at the club – the manager never had any scruples about shouting at anyone but Eric never got told off, never got reprimanded. I’d imagine he never got fined a penny for anything he did.

Alex Ferguson, Eric Cantona

Sir Alex let Eric do as he pleased – which usually involved winning stuff

That was just the way it was, though, the way the manager felt he had to treat him, and you couldn’t argue that it didn’t work. Eric was a bit special – he produced on the pitch and got the best out of everyone else.

Love thy neighbour

When we got him, there was a real sense of shock that Leeds had let him go to us so easily

We’d seen Eric for a little while at Leeds, but he was never really a regular starter for them. I guess the biggest surprise for all of us at Old Trafford was that they sold him to us in the first place – the rivalry between the two clubs, particularly at that time, was absolutely huge.

We obviously knew he was a good player because he’d scored a few goals during his time at Elland Road, but I think the manager was really keen on having him because he thought he was just what the team needed.

When we got him, there was a real sense of shock that Leeds had let him go to us so easily.

Eric Cantona

Cantona scored on his return from suspension – against Liverpool, of course

I think the standard went up as soon as he arrived, even in training. Eric had an edge of arrogance that helped us all, and a self-confidence that rubbed off on everyone. Mind you, he wasn’t the best of dressers so he did get his fair share of stick for a few of his outfits. Some were ridiculous.

We used to do a lot of crossing and finishing, and he was unerring – he would always seem to score. He had a great touch and a fantastic awareness with the ball at his feet.

Eric fitted into the dressing room straight away as well. He didn’t say too much but he was one of the boys, and would be there on lads’ days out with the rest of us. He got on with everyone and was just a cool guy really.

Eric wasn’t really one for working closely with the younger guys – he wasn’t the kind of player who’d sit you down and pass on advice – but I had a bit of a connection with him. There were a couple of nights where we sat down and had a few drinks while we analysed some of the games we’d both played in, looking back and seeing what we could have done better or differently. We had a similar sort of philosophy, I guess, and whenever I put a cross in he was always the No.1 target.

David Beckham, Eric Cantona

Cantona helped school Fergie's Class of '92