THE man who made the fateful phone call that resulted in Eric Cantona joining Manchester United insists he would do exactly the same again.
It has become the stuff of legend how Leeds managing director Bill Fotherby rang United chairman Martin Edwards about Denis Irwin and ended up selling Cantona to United instead. What’s less well known is that Fotherby never even bothered contacting Leeds’ manager of the time, Howard Wilkinson, about the move.
Cantona - who had a trial at Sheffield Wednesday - went on to win four League titles at Old Trafford. Leeds, in comparison, never recovered.
Indeed, a 4-0 defeat by United in which Cantona scored a last-minute goal in front of Leeds’ Kop, marked the end of Wilkinson’s tenure. Fotherby, though, has no regrets.
Now aged 81 and based in Harrogate, he said: “We had got Eric on a recommendation from Michel Platini, who told Howard he could be difficult to handle but had the potential to be a great player.
“At the time, we didn’t have any money. Because of that when we met his advisors to put together a deal we agreed to pay Eric something like £500,000 if we kept him after a few months. It was an immense amount of money for Leeds but we agreed to it. Apart from Lee Chapman, no one spoke fluent French and for Howard it was a nightmare.”