Former Manchester United winger, Lee Sharpe, has recounted Sir Alex Ferguson’s surprising reaction to Eric Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick incident involving a fan at Crystal Palace.
Eric Cantona’s unforgettable kung-fu kick directed at Crystal Palace supporter Matthew Simmons left many wondering how Manchester United’s legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, would respond.
Lee Sharpe, Cantona’s former teammate who played alongside him that day at Selhurst Park, recently shed light on the Old Trafford icon’s rather unexpected reaction to one of the most notorious incidents in Premier League history. Cantona, the enigmatic French dynamo, had kicked a heckler in the chest after receiving a red card in south London, but Sir Alex’s response wasn’t quite what anyone had anticipated.
“So we come in, the manager’s bursting through the door, his jacket’s off, shirt sleeves rolled up,” Sharpe explained during a recent appearance on Under the Cosh. “The medical bench is in the middle of the room, footballs ready to be signed, pots of tea and coffee, plates of sandwiches – everything’s flipped over [makes a table-flipping motion]. Food and plates of tea go flying, and we’re getting scalded.
“The lads are nudging each other, thinking, ‘Watch this, Cantona’s going to get it.’ And he starts, ‘Pallister, you can’t head the ball, you can’t tackle! Keane, you’ve not laid a glove on anyone! Sharpey, you can’t run, my grandmother’s faster than you. Coley, you can’t control a bag of cement!'”
If that was the tongue-lashing given to others in the squad who hadn’t physically engaged with a fan, one might assume Cantona was in for an entirely different caliber of scolding. But that wasn’t the case, as the forward somehow managed to escape the famous “hairdryer treatment.”
“Club history, traveling fans, a performance like that,” the Scottish manager continued. “All of you will be here at nine o’clock tomorrow running your hearts out! And Eric… you can’t go around doing things like that, son.”
Against all odds, Manchester United took the lead at Selhurst Park that day before settling for a 1-1 draw. David May, in his first goal for the Red Devils, put them ahead shortly after Cantona’s calamitous incident resulted in a 10-man United side. However, future England manager Gareth Southgate equalized with just 10 minutes left.
Former defender David May also provided a remarkably similar account of the dressing-room events, expressing his disbelief at Cantona’s avoidance of punishment. ‘Fergie’ was renowned for publicly berating players, yet here was a player who had committed a serious offense, leading to 120 hours of community service, but had somehow escaped the wrath.
Matthew Simmons, the Eagles fan involved, was also penalized, receiving a £500 fine after being found guilty of abusive behavior. He was banned from Selhurst Park