It's 20 years since the best 1million signing of all time. Here the key players recall the reign of King Cantona
10:34 GMT, 24 November 2012
RETURN OF THE KING…
Click here to read the full story of how Eric Cantona and other Manchester United greats travelled back to Old Trafford to watch the unveiling of Sir Alex Ferguson's statue.
It was a transfer that shocked English football, paved the way for Manchester United's first Premier League title and helped to define the modern game in this country as we know it.
Eric Cantona's 1million switch from champions Leeds United to arch-rivals Manchester United was as unexpected as it was sudden.
It happened 20 years ago this weekend and, arguably, it proved to be the catalyst United manager Sir Alex Ferguson needed to propel him and his club to two decades of dominance in England.
Sportsmail talks to key figures and includes book extracts to detail Cantona's time in the Premier League.
Hero: Eric Cantona was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for 1million and was an instant hit with the Manchester United fans
Sheffield Wednesday manager 1990 to 1994. Had Cantona on 'trial' in January 1992.
I had Cantona at Wednesday for a few days before he signed for Leeds but I don't think it was ever reported as it should have been.
I was doing a favour for the agent, Dennis Roach. He took me to Italy as a player.
He and Michel Platini wanted to get Eric back playing. He had retired from French football and Dennis wondered if I would have a little look at him in training.
Graeme Souness at Liverpool had already said no. I was happy to do Platini a favour but it was built up as if I was looking to sign Eric, which was never ever a consideration.
He was here to do a few days training and basically put himself in the shop window.
We weren't able to get on the grass at the training ground because of the bad weather so we went on to an astroturf area and had a little kick around up there.
There was also an indoor tournament at Sheffield Arena and he had a kick-around in that.
Goal getter: Cantona was prolific up front for Ferguson
We said we would like him to stay for a few more days training for him to enjoy himself and for us to have a little look at him but I think his manager took that as a little bit of an insult.
They regarded it as: 'He is Eric Cantona. He isn't going to be a player on trial'.
The whole thing got a little bit messy and he came to me and said: 'I have got a chance to go to Leeds'.
So he had my blessing and off he went to Leeds and that's basically it.
I have never really put my side of the story, but that's how it was, chapter and verse.
We had only just come in to the top league and the majority of our players were on Championship or Division Two contracts.
To even contemplate getting Cantona into our 'little' Sheffield Wednesday team was never really a starter.
It was never a consideration of mine to bring Eric Cantona to the club.
It was only a phone call and a bit of a favour that I was doing for a couple of friends. The rest is history. He went to Leeds and did okay.
At United he was incredible.
Leeds midfielder 1990-1996
Eric came to us mid-season when the title race was on.
We were getting to that time of the season, that tickly bit at the end. It was all very tense. Eric changed the crowd.
They loved him.
They loved the swagger and the confident air and maybe when other players may have been thinking: 'It is looking like a nil-nil here', he lifted the whole of Elland Road just by coming on the pitch.
Looking back, I think Howard Wilkinson used him perfectly.
Welcome to Manchester: Ferguson was ecstatic to get Cantona for just 1million
Leeds manager 1988-1996. Signed Cantona in January 1992 and sold him in the November.
If you examine his contribution to the championship season it's nowhere near as significant as has been written since.
It's Russian history. I know some of the boys were slightly offended when it was referred to as 'Cantona's Championship'.
Eric made a very, very useful contribution. He was a good trainer and a good member of the team and one hell of a player.
At football clubs, some things happen that are best kept in the club. All I can say is that it was not my decision (for him) to leave, it was Eric's decision.
I was faced with a player who was sitting in France and was saying he was not going to come back and play at Leeds. So I didn't have a choice.
The King: Cantona helped Manchester United to their first Premier League title after leaving Leeds
Lee Chapman Leeds striker 1990-1993
There were rumours at the time about Eric and some of the Leeds players' wives, but they weren't true.
No truth whatsoever. Eric wasn't that type of person. I think the fans had to have a reason why he left and they wouldn't accept that he and Howard had simply fallen out.
Howard has to have players who tow the line and Eric wasn't very good at that.
Eric was okay when he was in the team but not when he was out of the team. He wasn't really a great team man.
Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United manager. Signed Cantona on November 26 1992.
How he arrived at our doorstep, in a deal that lasted just 24 hours from first call to final signing, was quite incredible.
The scene was the chairman's office on a drizzly day in November. Martin Edwards and I were running through our target list of top strikers.
An offer for David Hirst had been knocked back. Immediate action was imperative. The goals had dried up.
Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football
It was like a bad memory returning from the season before. I mentioned it was a pity we didn't get a sniff a season earlier when Cantona was first brought to this country.
Then the phone rang for Martin; on the other end was Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby, sounding us out about Denis Irwin.
The timing was weird, absolutely uncanny. I scribbled Eric's name on a scrap of paper and eased it across the desk.
Immediately, Martin tuned in. 'Any chance of you selling him and we'd be interested. Need to know pretty quick, mind you.'
Within the hour Leeds were back and the haggling started.
Former Manchester United chairman.
The figure quoted is always 1.2million, but we actually paid just 1million for Eric.
Bill Fotherby said they would sell for 1.6m. I said it was too much.
We haggled, and in the end we agreed at 1m. I think Leeds wanted it to be known that the figure was higher, because they knew the fans would be up in arms as it was.
But it was 1m. When I told Alex we had got him at that price he was delighted, and very excited.
Alex and I then went to meet Eric at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Eric needed to hear that he was going to play regularly, and how Alex intended to use him, and after that it was just a case of he and I discussing how much we would pay him.
Cult hero: Cantona was popular with both players and fans
It all went very smoothly. When I look back at the signings I oversaw at Old Trafford, Eric was one of the two best I made; Peter Schmeichel being the other one.
Eric was the catalyst for the success we enjoyed. We hadn't won the league for 26 years and he arrives and we win it four times in the next five years.
The only time we did not win during that period was the season when Eric was banned for the kung-fu attack on Matthew Simmons at Crystal Palace.
That was a mad episode but to Eric's credit, he actually agreed to a pay-cut after that incident. As a club we had to protect ourselves so we restructured the contract.
It worked out pretty well for all concerned.
Lee Sharpe Manchester United forward 1988-1996
I was doing an autograph session for my boot sponsors – in Leeds, of all places! One of the organisers turned to me and said: 'Have you heard Cantona's just signed for your lot.'
I replied: 'Yeah, right – absolutely no chance!' I turned on the radio and there it was.
Total shock. Then there were all the media stories about his past and we were like: 'This bloke's a total nutter. What are we doing!'
Friend and former French team-mate
The first time I went over to see Eric in Manchester after he'd signed, he was beaming.
'Come out with me now, you've got to see this,' he urged.
We walked in the city streets and people everywhere were coming up to him, with delight on their faces, simply wanting to see him amongst them in person.
Eric just grinned and turned to whisper to me: 'You see You see They love me here. They love me!'
Wembley winner: Cantona (right) poses with Mark Hughes (left) after United beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup final
Crystal Palace defender fouled by Cantona at Selhurst Park on January 25 1995. Cantona was sent off and, as he left the field, attacked Simmons with a kung-fu kick. He was subsequently banned by the FA for eight months.
WHAT BECAME OF THE THE MAN HE KUNG-FU KICKED
Matthew Simmons was just 20 when Cantona launched his infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995.
Aged 17, Simmons was convicted of attempted violent robbery after he attacked a petrol station attendant with a spanner.
After the Cantona incident he lost his job and lost contact with his family.
He was charged in May 2011 for attacking his son's football coach.
He currently works in the construction industry and occasionally watches football at Chelsea and Fulham.
The ball was going over the top, I chased it back and Eric sort of kicked out.
It was just one of those crazy moments. That's just Eric's way. He was getting frustrated and maybe at times the red mist came over him.
He was sent off but I didn't see his kung-fu kick. We looked back on the Betamax afterwards and thought: 'Wow'.
Everyone was just in shock at what happened. Eric probably thought: 'Hang about, this guy's coming down abusing me.
'What gives him the right to do that Maybe I'll do something about it.'
And he did. That's what makes these players so great. They've got this devilment inside them.
I played at Old Trafford after that and got booed. For something which wasn't really my fault, I get kicked and I get booed!
I expected it because Eric is a hero. It was amazing. It happened in 1995 and people still talk about it.
Watch the video
I'll probably still get the blame for it. I don't think it hindered Eric as he came back as good as ever.
I'd played against Eric before and I played against him afterwards.
He was a great player. He always had time on the pitch. I don't know how he did it.
He was so intelligent that he could drift into areas where the centre-half didn't want to go.
People talk about this man-in-the-hole now as if it's a new phenomenon. Eric was doing that 20 years ago.
Liverpool midfielder who gave away the penalty from which Cantona scored on his comeback game on October 1 1995.
I was penalised for pulling down Ryan Giggs but it was a dubious decision as I won the ball.
Eric had not done much against us before that but you knew he was going to score.
He then famously ran behind the goal and swung off the stanchion to celebrate.
Sky, as is often the way, got so lucky that they were broadcasting that game.
When Cantona walked out, it was like a gladiator entering an arena. There was always something special about him.
Having said that, we passed them off the park that day.
Manager's dream: Cantona had his best years under Ferguson
Manchester United midfielder 1993-2005
I liked him immediately. He tended to do his own thing in training, something Alex Ferguson permitted.
He also had a temper that would flare up. He and Schmeichel often found themselves at odds. Fists were raised on one or two occasions.
But behind the enigma he was a great pro, serious and knowledgable.
The players loved him. I had never seen anybody finish like him and still haven't. He was different but bloody brilliant.
In private he was funny and loved a drink, champagne rather than lager. He was a good lad, one of the best.
No conceit, no bulls***. The eccentric loner was just the public mask. I remember when he was sent off in Istanbul.
A policeman was laying in to all of us. Eric got involved. In the dressing room he went crazy.
We all wanted to get out of there but Eric wanted to go back out and sort out the rogue cop with the truncheon.
Eric was a big strong lad and insisted he was gonna 'kill that f****r'.
The manager, Brian Kidd and a few players had to restrain him.
I played in the game at Crystal Palace. My immediate reaction was: So what Fair play to Eric. I may have done the same myself.
It was a nasty incident, out of order. But my heart went out to him.
All the lads felt the same. There was no way we were gonna turn our backs on him.
Heated rivalry: Cantona leaps over a Robbie Fowler tackle during a match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 1996
Manchester defender 1992-2011
We were in the Bulls Head in Hale on a team day out. It was December 1996 and Eric had pulled up a seat next to me and Becks.
We were in awe of him. Over a beer Eric told us we were gonna be Kings of Europe.
It was a big claim but Becks and I left the pub feeling invigorated, and not just because of the beer.
For Eric there wouldn't be many chances left to dominate Europe as he had the Premier League.
The rest of us weren't to know it but Eric had staked everything on winning the Champions League.
We fell short that season [United lost in the semi-final to Dortmund] and, at the age of 30, he'd decided he'd given it his best shot. Time to quit.
A few days earlier I had seen him and he had just said: 'Have a good summer. See you later'.
The way he left was typical Eric.
Inspirational: Gary Neville says he was 'invigorated' when Cantona told him they would win the Champions League
Manchester United forward 1990-present
Eric confirmed his retirement a week before his 31st birthday. Were we surprised
Life with Eric was one long surprise. You never knew what he would do next.
There were no farewells or anything like that. I didn't actually really believe he meant it until he failed to turn up the following season.
Legend: Cantona was joined by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left), Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Edwin van der Sar as Ferguson's statue was unveiled at Old Trafford