Eric Cantona recognised how much Manchester United’s younger players needed the money.
While Eric Cantona had something of a reputation for bravado during his spell at Man United, the Frenchman made sure to look after the up-and-coming stars at Old Trafford.
Roy Keane was always quite fond of Cantona and the Irishman revealed how United’s talisman at the time, signed from Leeds United for just £1.2 million in 1992, did something that “nobody else would have done” when he gave away £16,000 to Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.
In the mid-1990s, the United squad decided to hold a draw for the all the money that players received for their club media obligations, with the winner taking home the entire pot, but when Cantona won one year, he decided to look after Scholes and Butt, who had risked money that they could have done with at the time.
Writing in his autobiography, The Second Half, Keane revealed: “In my early years at United, there was a players’ pool and each of us would get about £800 out of it at the end of the season for the work we’d done for the in-house magazines, the club videos.
“We were all on decent money and eight hundred quid wasn’t going to make or break us, so one time, we decided to put all the cheques into a hat and the last cheque out, whoever’s name was on it, got to keep all of the cheques.
“We all put our cheques in except a couple of the younger players – I think it was Becks and Gary and Phil. They opted out.
“They were new on the scene and didn’t have the money to spare, but Scholesy and Nicky Butt put their cheques in.
“I think I was the third last name out, so I got a run for my money, but the last cheque out – Eric Cantona. He’d won about sixteen grand.
“He got somebody to cash the cheques, he split the money in two and he gave it to Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt because, he said, the two of them had the balls to go into it when they couldn’t really afford it. I just thought ‘what a gesture’. Nobody else would have done it.”
Keane, who recently poured cold water on comparisons between current United star Bruno Fernandes and Cantona, took over captaincy duties after the French forward decided to retire in 1997 at the age of 30.
It’s safe to say that the respect between Keane and Cantona was mutual as the latter named the Corkman in his ultimate XI of players.
Cantona explained to Four Four Two that not only would Keane play a crucial role in midfield of his hypothetical team, but he would lead the side.
Discussing his Keane selection, Cantona explained: “Do I need to say why? He was the best in midfield; he could play everywhere. He could play the holding role and be defensive, but then he could suddenly burst forward and score goals.
“He was so intelligent in how he played the game and let me tell you: it felt good to have him behind me for four seasons. He’d win the ball and then give it to me. And what a character! He’d lead my team and inspire them.”