Sport on TV: Oo aah ya? And what are you doing in my front room?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

What would you do if Eric Cantona walked into your living room? Go weak at the knee ligaments? Or put all your crockery away in case he decided to launch a kung fu kick? You had better hope you're not having sardines for tea, or the seagulls that follow the trawler would pinch them.

In Eric Cantona – Looking for Manchester (ITV1, Monday) he kept showing up in the homes of diehard United fans in much the same way he did in last year's film Looking for Eric, directed by Ken Loach.

When he called in on Shaun Kelly, Kelly went and hid behind the sofa. Well, he wasn't hiding because he was standing up, but he bizarrely wedged himself between the settee and the radiator. It looked like he was standing behind a goal, waiting for Eric to boot his occasional lamp into the wallpaper. "I'd have hoovered if I knew he was coming," he said.

Shaun admitted: "My only passion in life really is United," echoing Cantona who returned to Manchester with the words: "You have to understand the strength of the fans' passion for the game." Being French, of course, he knows all about passion.

If he had turned up in the United dressing-room before the midweek Manchester derby (Premier League Football, Sky Sports 2, Wednesday), he would have found that nothing much had changed. Sir Alex Ferguson still ranting away – if slightly more purple than before – Paul Scholes still sitting quietly in the corner, Ryan Giggs... oh wait, this was "the first derby teamsheet for 20 years that doesn't include the name Ryan Giggs," according to Clive Tyldesley.

But much has changed, of course, in Manchester's blue corner. Cantona was arguably the most successful foreign player in the English top flight, certainly the first superstar. United were the most powerful club in the land as he helped Fergie's kids to four League titles in five years (after one at Leeds). Now City have a dressing-room full of foreigners and United cannot compete with them in terms of wage bills, if nothing else.

As Fergie himself said, Sheikh Mansour, the City owner, "is throwing money at his team to get above United". It might be preferable to boots, tea cups and extreme hissy fits. But coming from a man who has just reportedly agreed to pay Wayne Rooney £200,000 a week such gripes might seem a tad hypocritical.

Not that you would be hyper-critical, because he won't talk to you again if you're not careful. Even though he hasn't spoken to the BBC since 2004, now he isn't speaking to them even more because Match of the Day had the temerity to say that his side were "hopeless" against Wolves last weekend. Never has silence been so deafening. And how Ferguson would have loved to have had a Cantona in midweek to do what he did best: change a game.

Cantona was keen to focus on the working-class roots of the two clubs, "ze artisans of ze revolution", rather than their nouveau riche status. He met up with Norman Williams and Jim Kenyon, who are the only fans who are allowed to watch United training and have done so since Sir Matt Busby's time.

Busby used to make his players look out of the stadium windows and watch the "workers" pass by on their way to their menial jobs. It's a good job that Wayne Rooney doesn't have to walk to work or he might run into a different sort of streetwalker.

Comments