What if Leeds United hadn’t sold Eric Cantona?

22 Nov 2019 10:45am, by YorkshireSquare

Eric Cantona played just 29 times for Leeds United. It is a statistic that bears remembering because the Frenchman helped the club get over the line in the second half of the 1991-92 season to win the final First Division title before the creation of the Premier League. Leeds United are in a dogfight in an attempt to get back to the Premier League this season Fans of the team can bet with this code on the Whites and follow them throughout the second half of the season.

The Frenchman arrived in January from Nimes in a deal that saw Leeds United pay £1 million in total to the Ligue 1 side. While some have diminished Cantona’s impact on Leeds United due to him only being there for little more than half a season, the player was integral to the success of that First Division title.

So, what if Leeds United hadn’t sold Eric Cantona? Would their future fate have been changed?

Winning the First Division

Along with Cantona’s impact being diminished, many fans of other clubs have cited Manchester United’s poor form at the end of the 1991-92 season as the real reason for Leeds United’s title win. While it is true that Manchester United won just three times in their last 11 matches, Leeds United were a machine. Leeds United are preparing for their upcoming holiday fixture list in the EFL Championship which will see the club play six matches in December. Fans can use the Coral free bet code to wager on Leeds United’s games and follow the action all month long.

Howard Wilkinson’s team went unbeaten in nine of their last 11 games with the final three all ending in victory. Two of Cantona’s three goals for the club came during that 11-match run showcasing just home important he was at Elland Road. Leeds United had drawn both league matches with the Red Devils by identical 1-1 scorelines. Neither match featured Cantona and an argument can be made that Leeds United would have got the best of their fierce rival had the Frenchman been at the club at the time.

The Premier League

The importance of Cantona was exemplified in the first season of the Premier League. Wilkinson’s side now had to contend with playing in the UEFA Champions League and competing on the domestic front. It was a difficult task for the reigning champions. However, the 1992-93 season started out well with Leeds United defeating another archrival, Liverpool, in the FA Charity Shield. Cantona scored three times in a 4-3 barnburner.

While Cantona has received blame over the years for poor performances and being difficult to deal with, the fact is, the entire team was burnt out following the title win. The added pressure of the Champions League and the additional fixture wiped out the squad. Wilkinson, for his own faults, couldn’t adapt to the Frenchman and failed to find common ground. Something Sir Alex Ferguson would do.

The worst transfer in Premier League history?

The 26th November 1992 is a day that will live in infamy as Cantona was shipped off to Manchester United for £1.2m. At the time of his departure, Cantona had already scored 11 times in all competitions. It was the third-best goals total when Leeds United finished the season. With Cantona gone and the supposed bad apple out of the bunch, results were expected to improve. Yet, they didn’t under Wilkinson. Leeds United won just seven of their last 26 league games without the forward.

Had Leeds United kept Cantona and realized regaining the league title was not possible due to the number of fixtures the team faced and the hangover of the previous season, they could have prepared for the 1993-94 season. That year saw Leeds United finish fifth, 22 points behind Manchester United. Take away Cantona’s 18 league goals for the Red Devils that season and things are much more even between the two clubs.

Cantona would go on to win four league titles with Manchester United while Leeds United would be relegated in 2004. Had Cantona not been sold, the financial issues of the early 2000s may not have occurred or at least, been as bad as they were.