Eric Cantona helped establish the mentality that saw Manchester United become the dominant force in English football during the 1990s.

'King Eric' scored 82 goals in 185 appearances for United, winning the Premier League four times and lifting the FA Cup on two occasions.

He also won league titles with Marseille and Leeds United, as well as the Coupe de France with Montpellier.

On May 24, his 54th birthday, we look back at his illustrious but turbulent career.

The good

Name a more iconic Cantona moment than his goal against Sunderland in December 1996. The brilliant footwork to get away from two players by the halfway line and surge forward. The chip, which he stood and watched as it bounced in off the upright. The turn. The stare. The collar. Straight back, chest out.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

You could say the FA Cup-winning strike against arch-rivals Liverpool in 1996.

Or the back-post volley against title-chasing Newcastle United, the looping effort that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar against Arsenal or the solo strike against Tottenham – all of which came in a six-game scoring run that helped inspire Alex Ferguson's men to Premier League glory.

Then there were the majestic chips against Southampton and Sheffield United, the magnificent first touches to set up goals against Manchester City, Wimbledon and Derby County.

For Leeds fans, it's probably being part of their last top-flight championship team in 1991-92 or his hat-trick in the 4-3 Charity Shield victory over Liverpool.

Even since retiring he's shone in the spotlight. Upon receiving the UEFA President's Award in August he quoted Shakespeare's King Lear in his acceptance speech, going viral online and initially leaving many bemused.

Enough iconic moments for you? Let's move on.

The bad

While his rebellious, defiant spirit helped endear Cantona to so many, it also led to some tetchy on-field moments.

Cantona had a touch of a nasty streak, often leaving a foot in or lunging in with two.

One such example came while he was representing Auxerre in the 1980s. Chasing back and with the ball on the opposite side of Nantes' Michel Der Zakarian, a drop-kick to the thigh of his opponent unsurprisingly landed Cantona a three-month ban.

There was also the occasional little kick in the challenge, or a stamp when he felt wronged.

And it wasn't just the opposition that could draw his ire.

At Marseille he was suspended indefinitely for kicking the ball into the crowd and throwing his shirt at the referee when substituted in an exhibition match.

At Nimes he launched the ball at a referee and then issued insults at his disciplinary hearing, consequently seeing his three-game ban was extended to two months.

Yeah, it wasn't all good.

The ugly

Whatever Cantona did to ingratiate himself with Leeds fans was undone shortly after moving to Manchester United.

In February 1993, Cantona was accused of spitting at supporters of the West Yorkshire club and ended up being fined £1,000.

However, that incident – and punishment – pales into insignificance when put against his infamous kung-fu kick aimed at Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Simmons in January 1995.

After being shown a red card for lashing out at Richard Shaw, Cantona took a detour on his walk towards the Selhurst Park tunnel and went for the Palace fan, who he claimed had been aiming xenophobic abuse at him.

The following day's headlines ran: "The night football died of shame", "Is this the end for the madman?", "Absolute thuggery in front of children".

Cantona was banned for eight months and fined the maximum of two weeks' wages.

As a media storm swirled in the aftermath, Cantona delivered one of his most memorable quotes to sum up his treatment, taking a sip of water mid-sentence to add drama that would hold him in good stead for a later career in acting.

He said: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

Regardless of some opinions of him, Cantona will remain one of the Premier League's most enduring figures.

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

Eric Cantona and Ian Rush are divided by club loyalties but share the same view on behind-closed-doors football: It will not bear comparison to the real thing.

If the 2019-20 season in Europe is to be concluded, it seems certain many matches will have to go ahead without spectators due to ongoing coronavirus pandemic worries.

And while Liverpool great Rush admits it would be wrong for the Anfield table-toppers to be awarded the Premier League title without the campaign playing out, the idea of empty stands leaves him cold.

For Manchester United legend Cantona, the absence of supporters would take away a vital element of the football experience, and players would suffer.

Rush told the Sunday Mirror: "I've never played a game behind closed doors, so I don't know what it's like. But I don't think it would bring the best out of me.

“If you're playing in front of no one it begs the question, would you be any good? Would you be up for it, first of all? Would it be the same as a normal game in front of a big crowd? I don't think so."

Social distancing would seem impractical at football, given the close proximity in which spectators are seated at games, so the Premier League faces a likely stark choice: play without fans, or not at all.

“If Liverpool are at home and they can win the league I want to be there even if we all have to be two metres apart," Rush said.

"But seriously, if it doesn't happen and the Premier League is declared null and void then you have to move on and not let it affect you. This Liverpool team is the best I've ever seen and I'm certain they will come again.

"There's no way Liverpool can be awarded the title without the season being finished."

There are concerns within clubs and leagues about broadcasters withholding money if games are not played, meaning many are keen to ensure the fixtures go ahead, crowds or not.

Cantona told French broadcaster RTL: "I'd be delighted if we could restart football as it was before. If we start on June 17 because there's no more problems for anyone, that's great.

"But to resume playing football in front of nobody, just because TV have suspended payments, that's not great, right? You can have exactly the same stakes, the same players, [but] a match behind closed doors isn't a football match.

"The energy that the fans give off, that they transmit to the players, that lifts players.

"You've seen Champions League games behind closed doors. It was the same matches, the same stakes, but it wasn't the same matches. There's none of the passion.

"They players need that energy. It's like at the theatre, to play in front of an empty room or a full room, it's not the same thing."

Scott McTominay had the honour of scoring Manchester United's 2000th Premier League goal as the Red Devils defeated Norwich City on Sunday and became the first team in the competition's history to hit the milestone.

A look back through the Old Trafford archives offers a striking masterclass from some of the greatest marksmen to have graced English football, with the likes of Mark Hughes, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ruud van Nistelrooy having plundered goals for the club.

Every United fan has their own favourite goal from the Premier League era, with unforgettable hits lighting up each of the 13 title triumphs achieved under Sir Alex Ferguson.

We've picked out eight of the very best, all of which came during the Ferguson era - a time when goals were easier to come by than they have been of late for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.


David Beckham v Wimbledon, August 17, 1996

It was the opening day of the 1996-97 season and Ferguson gave the number 10 shirt to the 21-year-old midfielder David Beckham.

United were already 2-0 up and heading for a straightforward victory at Selhurst Park when Beckham received the ball from Brian McClair and, from just inside his own half, launched it audaciously into the air, over the head of Dons goalkeeper Neil Sullivan and into the net.

It was one of the most memorable goals in Premier League history and one Beckham himself names as the pick of his career.

Eric Cantona v Sunderland, December 20, 1996

Four months after Beckham's famous lob, United were 4-0 up against Sunderland at Old Trafford when Eric Cantona - in what was to be his final season at the club - collected the ball just inside the Black Cats' half.

The enigmatic Frenchman drove forward in possession, exchanged passes with Brian McClair, and then produced an exquisite chip over the stranded Lionel Perez that clipped the inside of the post on the way in.

He then turned, flipped his collar, and spawned a celebration that would be imitated by United fans everywhere for years to come.

Paul Scholes v Bradford City, March 25, 2000

Paul Scholes has spoken about the understanding he shared with Beckham during their days at United, and that intuition paid off in spades at Valley Parade in 1999-2000.

Beckham sent a corner straight to the edge of the Bradford City penalty area where Scholes was waiting with his hammer of a right foot, which arrowed a volley into the Bradford net with scorching ferocity.

Ruud van Nistelrooy v Fulham, March 22, 2003

Given his reputation as a penalty-area predator, it is understandable that Fulham's defenders might not have taken the threat of Van Nistelrooy running towards them from just inside his own half too seriously.

The Netherlands international had the last laugh, though, waltzing past a host of flat-footed Cottagers before tucking the ball past Maik Taylor with his customary composure.

Paul Scholes v Aston Villa, December 23, 2006

This entire list could feasibly be made up of the gifted midfielder's goals, given his penchant for strikes sent from the heavens.

One of his best was undoubtedly against Aston Villa in December 2006 when he met a cleared corner with a volley that crashed in off the underside of Gabor Kiraly's crossbar.

Cristiano Ronaldo v Portsmouth, January 30, 2008

He can often be wayward from dead balls but when Cristiano Ronaldo gets it right, it is usually a thing of beauty.

His free-kick against Portsmouth in 2008 was a case in point, the Portuguese superstar crashing a free-kick past David James with the kind of speed and accuracy that most players can only dream of.

Wayne Rooney v Manchester City, February 12, 2011

United's all-time leading scorer with 253 goals, Wayne Rooney did not score many as important - or indeed as special - as his overhead kick against Manchester City in February 2011. Combine the two and it is clear to see why this acrobatic volley is regarded as one of the most iconic in Premier League history.

Rooney reacted to a slight deflection off Pablo Zabaleta on Nani's cross by checking his run and sending his shot flying past Joe Hart.

The moment of magic arrived 12 minutes from time at Old Trafford after David Silva's deflected equaliser cancelled out Nani's opener, giving United a 2-1 win and putting their title assault back on track.

Robin van Persie v Aston Villa, April 22, 2013

Brought to Manchester United by Alex Ferguson in August 2012 with the sole aim of wrestling the title back from Manchester City, Robin van Persie did exactly that with 26 Premier League goals in his maiden campaign at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman's flying volley against Aston Villa in April 2013 was the pick of the bunch, with the strike helping to seal his side's 20th league title with four matches to spare in a 3-0 victory.

United were a goal to the good when Van Persie, watching strike partner Rooney's searching ball all the way, smashed an unstoppable left-footed volley past Brad Guzan.

Van Persie scored all three goals at Villa Park that day, but only one of those strikes - one worthy of sealing any title - truly stands the test of time.

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