From villain to hero: Cantona clinches FA Cup

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The Independent Online
Eric Cantona's majestic progress from kung-fu-kicking villain to all-conquering hero was completed yesterday at Wembley when his goal won the FA Cup for Manchester United, writes Dan Fearon.

United thus became the first side to win the league and cup double twice - the Premiership title was secured at Middlesbrough last Sunday. It was also a record ninth FA Cup victory.

What had been expected to be one of the more exciting finals turned out to be disappointingly mediocre, with United dominating the first half and Liverpool edging the second until Cantona volleyed a mispunched clearance from the Liverpool goalkeeper, David James, through a crowd of players into the net.

Cantona received the Player of the Year award from football writers on Thursday, after a season in which his goals helped United to overhaul a 12-point January deficit in the Premier League. Yesterday he said that he would spend the rest of his life in England, something that seemed most unlikely 16 months ago when Cantona leapt into the crowd to attack a Crystal Palace fan who was abusing him, an act which saw him banned for eight months from the game.

Yesterday he demonstrated how much he had changed since then when, as he walked up to collect the trophy, he was spat upon by opposing supporters. This time Cantona responded only with an icy stare.

Bookmakers immediately installed Manchester United at an ungenerous 14- 1 to do the FA Cup-Premiership double again next season, and they are now 6-1 to win the European Cup.

n A police spokeswoman said there were more than 60 arrests, mainly for public order offences.

There were no reports of injuries and no serious trouble. But the number of arrests was up on last year's tally of 22.

Match reports, page 32