Cantona is often regarded as having played a key role in the revival of Manchester United as a footballing force in the 1990s and he enjoys iconic status at the club. He wore the number 7 shirt at Manchester United with his trademark upturned collar. Cantona is affectionately nicknamed by Manchester United fans as "King Eric", and was voted as Manchester United's greatest ever player by Inside United magazine. Set against his achievements in football was a poor discipli
nary record for much of his career, including a 1995 conviction for a 'kung-fu' assault on a fan, and at a press conference following his initial conviction Cantona gave his famous and cryptic "seagulls" statement. His disciplinary record, however, was much improved after he returned from the eight-month suspension right up to his retirement as a player two years later.
Following his retirement from football in 1997, he took up a career in cinema and had a role in the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, the 2008 film French Film, and the 2009 film Looking for Eric. In 2010, he débuted as a stage actor in Face au Paradis, a French play directed by his wife, Rachida Brakni.
An inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, the museum states: "The enigmatic Frenchman was one of the Premier League's most talented, controversial players". On 19 January 2011, Cantona joined the revived New York Cosmos as Director of Soccer.
French national teamCantona was given his full international début against West Germany in August 1987 by national team manager Henri Michel. In September 1988, angered after being dropped from the national team, Cantona referred to Michel as a "bag of shit" in a post-match TV interview and was indefinitely banned from all international matches. However, Michel was sacked shortly after that having failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup.
The new coach was Michel Platini and one of his first acts was to recall Cantona. Platini stated that whilst he was coach, Cantona would be selected for France as long as he was playing competitive top-class football; it was Platini who had initiated Cantona's move to England to restart his career. France qualified for Euro 1992 held in Sweden, but failed to win a single game despite the striking partnership of Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin. Platini resigned after the finals to be replaced by Gérard Houllier.
Under Houllier, France failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. after losing the final game 2–1 at home to Bulgaria when a draw would have sufficed. Houllier resigned and Aimé Jacquet took over.
Jacquet began to rebuild the national team in preparation for Euro 96 and appointed Cantona as captain. Cantona remained captain until the Selhurst Park incident in January 1995. The suspension which resulted from this incident also prevented him from playing in international matches.
By the time Cantona's suspension had been completed, he had lost his role as the team's playmaker to Zinédine Zidane, as Jacquet had revamped the squad with some new players. Cantona, Papin and David Ginola lost their places in the squad and were never selected for the French team again, thus missing Euro 96. Though there was media criticism about Cantona's omission, as he was playing his best football in the Premier League, Jacquet stated that the team had done well without Cantona, and that he wanted to keep faith with the players who had taken them so far.The decision was vindicated as Les Bleus subsequently won the World Cup in 1998.
To this day, Cantona still harbours resentment for the people at the head of his national team but also admiration for his adopted football country; at Euro 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, he supported England and not France.