Cantona at 50: Norwich City felt the full force of Manchester United legend

Norwich City and Manchester United players clash during a 3-0 win at Carrow Road for the Red Devils

Norwich City and Manchester United players clash during a 3-0 win at Carrow Road for the Red Devils in April 1993, with Eric Cantona (7) in the thick of the action with Canaries players, from left, Ruel Fox (10), John Polston (5) and Chris Sutton (4). Picture: Adrian Judd/Archant Library - Credit: Archant

On the 50th birthday of Manchester United legend Eric Cantona, former Norwich City defender John Polston talks to David Freezer about some of the Canaries' clashes with the controversial Frenchman.

Former Norwich City defender John Polston remembers his clashes with Eric Cantona clearly – having seen both sides of the Frenchman's personality on the pitch.

Polston made 263 appearances for the Canaries, placing him 31st in the club's all-time appearances list, and was a key part of the team which battled Cantona's United team for the inaugural Premiership title in 1992-93.

The stylish forward was integral as Alex Ferguson's team won 3-1 at Carrow Road in April 1993 to take control of that title race but it was an FA Cup clash the following season in which Polston felt the Frenchman's full force.

Cantona angered the City faithful during a 2-0 win for United in the fourth round of the FA Cup in January 1994, kicking out at Polston and lunging at Jeremy Goss.


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'It was when Gary Megson and John Deehan had taken charge. They called me into the office and said they wanted me to be man-to-man marking Cantona – and they literally meant, wherever he goes, you go,' Polston said.

'We thought if you can do that to Cantona, hopefully they would miss him more than we would miss me!

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'So for the first 45 minutes I was standing on his toes and he did have the hump. We did okay and he didn't get a look in and he was certainly getting annoyed.'

Unfortunately for City and Polston, now aged 47 and working as a PE teacher at primary schools and as a fitness instructor in Berkshire, the plan didn't work for the full match and goals from Roy Keane and Cantona led United to victory.

'I think it was a Rob Newman back-pass that went wrong and we went 1-0 down and switched back to a normal back four but at one point in the second half we clashed and I ended up on the floor and Cantona caught me with his boot,' Polston continued.

'He didn't catch me that badly, maybe I made a bit much of it, but I thought it might have been a yellow or even a red card – and then he got away with another one on Gossy. I always enjoyed playing against him though, he had some great qualities, but you knew if you tried to rough him up a bit he might react.

'It is the good things that he brought to English football that we remember though.'

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