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1996-1997 would end up being Cantona's last season in football. At 30 years old most believe he retired with plenty left to give, but United fans found it hard to complain after everything he had given to the club. Four league titles and more importantly, a return to the top of English football, meant that Cantona had given more than enough back. What they would truly miss is his presence on the pitch. Watching him brought about a constant sense of awe. Whenever you saw him with the number 7 donning his back and his infamous collar turned up you were always on the edge of your seat waiting for him to do something magical. Something magnificent.
96-97 would be no different, in fact, it might have delivered the most iconic moment in Cantona's career. Sunderland was by no means a force in English football that year. They were actually well on their way to relegation at the end of the season and the match wasn't hotly contested either. United was up 4-0 going into the 80th minute and was in no danger of blowing that lead. However, an exchange with the opposing keeper would kick Cantona into gear during the late stages of the match.
Cantona picked the ball up at the halfway line and begin hurtling towards goal. A quick bit of footwork disposed of two Sunderland players and a one-two with Brian McClair put him through on goal. The keeper came up off his line and the rest was finished. It's not an angle most would have even considered, but with Cantona anything was possible and the ball floated up over the keeper and pinged into the top left corner. It was magical.
But what happened next was even more so. Cantona stood, rooted to the spot. His chest puffed out and his arms slightly risen from his side. He circled in place, taking in the crowd. An air of defiance and domination on his face. In reality, it was only a couple of seconds, but it felt like an eternity. As if time had frozen. It was quintessential Eric Cantona. Power, dominance, flair, spectacle. A quiet regalness that none since have ever achieved. It wasn't a game-winning goal or a record-breaking achievement. But it was a perfect picture of exactly how we remember Cantona. Defiant. Untouchable.
Recall this defining moment in footballing history with this signed photo of King Eric's chipped goal against Sunderland. See his pervasive elegance as he lifts the ball off the grass and over the keeper. Bask in the glory just as he did with his iconic celebration.