On this day: Eric Cantona kung-fu kicks Crystal Palace fan

Nineteen years ago today, Manchester United striker Eric Cantona aimed a kick at a Crystal Palace supporter following his red card at Selhurst Park.

When Eric Cantona arrived at Manchester United in November 1992 from Leeds United, the Frenchman transformed Sir Alex Ferguson's team from 'nearly men' into the champions of English football.

Then, during the following campaign, the centre-forward played a key role as United won a Premier League and FA Cup double, scoring 25 goals in the process.

The 1994-95 campaign saw United locked in a two-way battle for the title with Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn Rovers, who were spearheaded by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton. Despite that firepower, when United made the trip to lowly Crystal Palace 19 years ago today, they did so in the knowledge that a victory would send them above Rovers at the summit.

However, in the 48th minute of the contest at Selhurst Park, United's entire campaign was rocked by Cantona's actions. It would have been bad enough losing their talisman for three matches after he had been red-carded by referee Alan Wilkie for kicking out at Palace defender Richard Shaw. What followed, though, meant that United would be without Cantona's services until October.

As he was accompanied down the touchline by kitman Norman Davies, Cantona all of a sudden threw himself into a section of home supporters feet first. The target of his assault was 20-year-old Matthew Simmons, who was later found guilty of having aimed threatening language and behaviour at the United frontman, while Cantona himself had claimed that he had been the subject of racist insults from the self-employed glazier.

Eric Cantona is guided away after assaulting a Crystal Palace fan on January 25, 1995.© Getty Images

After punches were thrown, Cantona was eventually hauled away from the scene by Davies and United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, with a legal case now hanging over his head. For the record, the match ended in a 1-1 draw as David May's opener was cancelled out by Palace defender Gareth Southgate.

Cantona pleaded guilty to common assault a couple of months later, yet he was still sentenced to fortnight in prison at Croydon Magistrates. Upon appeal, that punishment was reduced to a 120-hour community service order, which would see Cantona coach young footballers.

As for United, they suspended the striker until the end of the campaign, but the Football Association opted to extend that ban until October 1, 1995.

"The members of the FA Commission are satisfied that the actions of Eric Cantona following his sending off at Crystal Palace in the Manchester United match on January 25 brought the game into disrepute. Eric Cantona has therefore been in breach of FA rules," read a statement from the governing body.

"After taking into consideration the previous misconduct of Eric Cantona, the provocation he suffered, the prompt action taken by Manchester United, Eric Cantona's expression of regret to the commission, the apologies he conveyed to those affected and the assurances he gave to his future conduct, the members of the commission decided that Eric Cantona should be suspended forthwith from all football activities up to and including 30th September 1995 and in addition fined £10,000."

Consequently, United were pipped to the title by Blackburn by just a point. Many believe that had Cantona been available for selection, Ferguson's side would have been champions for a third successive campaign. After all, upon his return, he inspired the Red Devils to another double during the 1995-96 season.

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