The football world was stunned 20 years ago when Cantona, after being dismissed for petulantly kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw during a Premiership encounter at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995, lost his temper so spectacularly as he was escorted along the touchline to the dressing room.
On his way there he passed close to Palace fan Matthew Simmons, and whatever the 20-year-old actually said prompted Cantona to leap towards him, studs first with a kung fu-style kick. The Frenchman landed on the advertising boards and after getting to his feet, unleashed a flurry of punches in Simmons’ direction.
Cantona was banned by United for the remainder of the season and the FA subsequently extended the suspension to eight months. The Frenchman was later sentenced to two weeks in prison for his assault on Simmons but this was reduced to 120 hours’ community service on appeal.
Ned Kelly, United’s then head of security, spent time with Cantona after he was taken into custody and speaking on Cantona’s Kung Fu Kick, which aired on BBC Radio 5 Live last night, revealed how nonchalant the French man was after the judge’s ruling.
“I followed him down the stairs with the prison wardens,” Kelly said.
“We proceeded into the cell, we were just sitting down together when the police warden came in and said, ‘I’ll go down the road and get you some McDonald’s and chips.’”
“We’re eating away and having a chat about it, and he said, ’I just can’t be bothered with all of this, I’ll just serve my sentence.’ I said to him, ‘Let’s wait until (United director) Maurice (Watkins) gets back and see what the outcome is... he was so cool about it.”