‘We didn’t know for a year Eric Cantona spoke English – but his WAG taught it’

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    Manchester United legend Eric Cantona is rarely one to keep his opinions to himself, but he was all but non-verbal when he first arrived at Old Trafford.

    Or at least it wasn't English he was speaking to his team-mates after Lee Sharpe revealed the Frenchman kept his talents for talking to himself. It wasn't until "about a year" into his stay at United that the rest of the team found out he was fluent – and had a wife who taught English.

    Cantona was married to teacher Isabelle Ferrer when he first made the move from Nimes to Leeds in January 1992. It wasn't until November of that year that he joined Sir Alex Ferguson's outfit, but his team-mates wouldn't learn about his linguistics for some time after that.

    "He was never really that talkative, to be fair," said Sharpe on the Under the Cosh podcast. "So you'd say something to him, and he'd just be like [shrugs]," said Sharpe. "I don't know whether the lads talked to him individually, but there's a few things got mentioned.

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    "We didn't know for about a year that he spoke English! He came in and pretended he didn't know anything. And then we found out that his missus taught English. That was her subject matter.

    "So he knew everything that was going on. The lads just didn't think he had a clue at first."

    For all their lack of a common tongue during that first season at Old Trafford, Cantona & Co. didn't let it impede them from being successful on the pitch. He and Sharpe were part of the group that won that season's Premier League and finished 10 points ahead of second-place Aston Villa.

    Where does Eric Cantona rank among United's best players of all time? Let us know in the comments section below.

    It was the first of four Premier League titles Cantona won under Ferguson, in addition to the Division One crown he clinched during his sole season at Elland Road. Silverware had a habit of following the Frenchman wherever he went during his career, though his time at the Theatre of Dreams stands out.

    His first full campaign with United resulted in a Premier League and FA Cup double, earning Cantona the PFA Players' Player of the Year award in the process. He also finished third on the Ballon d'Or podium in 1993 following his breakout campaign at United.

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    That would suggest the Marseille native benefited from opening up to his Old Trafford team-mates over time and breaking down the language barrier. Even if that partition was entirely one-sided in the first place.

    Not only did it soon become clear Cantona could understand English, but his grasp of the language was likely superior to many of his British-born team-mates. After infamously being sent off for kung-fu kicking Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in January 1995, Cantona told reporters: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much."

    • Manchester United FC
    • Premier League
    • Sir Alex Ferguson

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