Phil Neville reveals why Manchester United icon Eric Cantona was so good

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Phil Neville Eric Cantona

Phil Neville has claimed that Eric Cantona's training habits and work ethic helped kick-start Manchester United's unprecedented run of success in the 1990s.

Coming through the club's academy as part of the 'Class of 92', Neville admitted that he saw United start to take a more professional approach, which filtered down from the first-team into the youth sides.

Neville maintains that this was led by Cantona, who joined the Red Devils from Leeds for just £1.62m in 1992.

Speaking on the High Performance Podcast, Neville explained how Cantona's attitude to training and the skills that he practiced rubbed off on the rest of the team.

Neville said: "Sir Alex did want to change the culture, and he did. The academy had changed, that work ethic was there but obviously we were young players. But he had to change the culture in his first-team, and Cantona was almost like: ‘Here, this is what the top players do.’

"And at United, we had the best players there. Ince, Keane were there, but this is what the best players do. People talk to me about Cantona, ‘what did he used to do?’ He used to get a ball, get a wall and just kick a back against a wall, left foot, right foot, control it with the outside of his foot, drag it to his right, play it with his left.

"It was just simple drills that made him so good on a Saturday. Somebody would cross a ball into the box and he would hit volley after volley, but it was just simple.

"Do you remember the goal that Scholesy scored against Bradford? Beckham drive, Scholes volley. Now, that was as simple as, after every training session, somebody on the left wing just pinging a ball into an area where the ‘D’ was, and him just lashing a ball 10, 15, 20 times. It wasn’t individual bits of brilliant coaching, training. No, it was just repetition of simplicity."

Cantona's method undeniably worked. Having not won a league title for a quarter of a century prior to the Frenchman's arrival, United won the Premier League in his first season at Old Trafford.

They won three of the next four championships as well, proving beyond doubt that the signing of Cantona had made a huge impact on the side.

Indeed, the goal that Neville speaks of, Scholes' volley against Bradford, came in March 2000 - Cantona had departed the club almost three years before then. This illustrates how the standards set by Cantona were followed by the generations that followed at United.

The club dominated English football for two decades under Sir Alex Ferguson, but Neville has not forgotten who set them on their way to the top of the domestic game.

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