The Frenchman seemed determined to leave Old Trafford in the aftermath of his feet-first faux pas at Selhurst Park, and his resolve appeared to strengthen when the Football Association announced it was to investigate the circumstances which saw him playing in a training match in apparent breach of his eight-month worldwide ban. Cantona approached the United board with a transfer request and, with Internazionale pursuing him, he appeared Italy-bound.
However, Ferguson's determination to keep Cantona was demonstrated when he flew to France to persuade him to stay. "I think he was assessing what his options were, and the feeling he had at the time made it a difficult one for him, very difficult," Ferguson said.
"There was the community service and all the media exposure and the criticisms. I wonder how many people would have had the courage to stay, particularly a foreigner?
"It would have been dead easy to get on the first ship, stay in the hull, and go anywhere, just run away, but he's done more than that."
Ferguson explained how he had persuaded Cantona to change his mind. "We did what we felt would please ourselves and our supporters. I think we did the right thing and it turned out to be good for us.
"I said to him: 'There's no reason for you to leave here. The supporters love you; it's the best football you've played and enjoyed in your career. If you think you can't handle it though, then you'll be doing the right thing by leaving.' I think he's made the right decision."
This week Cantona broke his silence to explain he had been driven by a desire to be "honest and faithful to those who have surrounded me" and to publicly thank Ferguson for his personal support.
Ferguson's response was to play the compliment down. "He doesn't need to tell me that," he said. "Eric isn't the type of person to try to ingratiate himself with me or anybody else. I'm not a vain person but I'm aware of what he feels about this club and me. The way he's performed tells you everything, I think."Reuse content