Football is a team sport. 11 play on each side and everyone needs to pitch in for the team to win. That much we know for a fact. If we were to extend that logically, we could state that one man cannot possibly decide the fate of a football club on his own. Logic, though, oftentimes falls flat in the face of pure footballing genius.Here we celebrate 7 instances in the modern era (’90s onwards), where footballing genius triumphed over logic – the amazing stories of lone men changing the fortunes of the football club they have joined with their footballing skill, tactical intelligence and oftentimes, sheer force of personality.N.B. This list does not purport to be definitive
#1 Eric Cantona - Manchester United (1992-93)
As November 1992 dawned, Alex Ferguson was in a spot of bother. His Manchester United team, 10th in the league and slipping fast, were – and there is really no way to sugar coat this – utter tripe. After a meager return of 14 goals in the 15 games that had lead to just 5 wins, no one knew where the goals, and consequently the wins, would come from.
It really did look like it would be “Ta Ra Fergie” this time.
Then, along came that phone call - Leeds United called up to enquire about Denis Irwin; Manchester United ended up signing Eric Cantona. The Frenchman swaggered into Old Trafford and brought with him an aura that would change everything.
It’s funny how he meant so many different things for so many different people; for the manager, he was the perfect professional, a man who demonstrated to him the overarching importance of training; for the older, more experienced players, he was the catalyst that removed the invisible fetters and allowed their innate creativity to express itself; for the younger players he was the best role model-cum-mentor they could have asked for; for the fan, he was one of their own.
Perhaps even more importantly, he would also attend to the little matter of digging Manchester United FC out of their morbid existential crisis and bringing back the sense of identity and self-belief that it had been craving for since the days of Law, Best and Charlton.
It was, Ooo aaa Cantona, indeed!