Throwback to When Former Manchester United Captain Eric Cantona Celebrated With the Iconic ‘Chest Puff’ Against Sunderland in 1996

Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona’s legacy at Manchester United, and football in general, is difficult to sum up in a few words. He remains one of, if not the most charismatic player of all time and also one of the most talked about people in football. 25 years after the Frenchman hung up his football boots, some of his antics, both on and off the pitch, remain fresh in the minds of fans. One such instance fans have raved about for years is his iconic ‘chest puff’ celebration against Sunderland in 1996.

How Did Eric Cantona Celebrate His Iconic Goal Against Sunderland in 1996


Eric Cantona Reached New Heights

The Frenchman was in the form of his life as he had already raked up 48 goals in his first three seasons at Old Trafford. The 1995/96 season saw him reach new heights as he became not just a leader on the pitch but arguably United’s best player.  

On December 21, 1996, he cemented his place in The Red Devils’ folklore, first with an exceptional goal and then matching it with an equally vibrant celebration. His signature collar-up style made him one of the most exuberant characters on the pitch. It was only fitting that the King would have a similar nonchalance about his celebration.

It Remains One of the Most Iconic Celebrations in Football

The Old Trafford faithful rose to their feet to adore and celebrate a goal that stands out in the club’s history. Cantona received the ball on the halfway line and took a sharp turn to combine with Brian McClair. He strode forward to the edge of Sunderland’s penalty box to receive the ball from McClair once again. He then attempted an outlandish chip, which left the Black Cats goalkeeper stranded.

READ MORE: Cantona talks about retiring in 1991

The celebration that followed was even more iconic as it combined the charisma and nonchalance of Cantona with his vibrant nature and arrogance. The then-United number seven, turned around to the adoring Old Trafford faithful and simply had his chest puffed out.

What the Former Manchester United Captain Had to Say About His Legendary Celebration

The King recently sat down for an interview with The Athletic, where he reminisced about the goal and his iconic celebration. 

When asked about that moment, Cantona stated that he did not think about celebrating a goal like that.

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He said: “I never thought before that I would celebrate a goal like this. You see some players who always celebrate in the same way, but a goal is a unique moment. I wanted to give a place to instinct. Every moment in life is special and unique. You cannot repeat it. Now, for example, I do theatre, and I go on stage. I go with the same words, but one night and the night after are not the same. Sometimes you find a moment you love, and you want to replicate it the day after, and it does not work. Or it works, but it is different because the people in front of you are not the same, and the energy is not the same.”

Eric Cantona ended his time at Manchester United and, along with it, his footballing career at the end of the 1996/97 season at age 30. He won four league titles in five seasons and scored 82 goals in all competitions for the Red Devils.