May  9, 1997	Elizabethan Poetry Revival (Stig Oppedal)
May 20, 1997	God, and related insights ("Snaps")
Jan  7, 1998 	All hail Andy "King" Cole! (Stig Oppedal)
May 18, 1998	The last 80 yards of Cantona United (Stig Oppedal)

Subject: Elizabethan Poetry Revival
Date: Fri, 09 May 1997 16:24:17 +0200
From: Stig Oppedal (

Shakespeare's Sonnet no. 94:

[1]They that have the power to hurt, and will do none
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
[2]They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,
And husband nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die;
[3]But if the flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity;
  For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds
  Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

[1] Cantona, helping out in defense, regally backheels the ball to
United's young left-back Phil Neville.
[2] Neville saunters upfield, cuts towards the center circle, evades
three tackles, and totally rips the Newcastle defense apart with an
awesome backheel kick to Cole, leaving three United players alone with
[3] Cole screws up the counter-attack of the year.

Champions 0, Also-rans 0.

Subject: Re: Elizabethan Poetry Revival
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 16:04:12 +0200
From: Stig Oppedal (

I was so excited by Neville's pass to Cole that I didn't listen to the
ball's sad lament: "Cantona to the left of me, Poborsky to the right,
here I am, stuck in the middle with you."

Alas, poor ball! - he knew Cole only far too well: a fellow of infinite

A few months ago in The Times, Simon Barnes depicted Cantona as having
molded Manchester United in his image: Cantona United, the only team
that plays with their chests out and collars up. Last season it was a
different story: Schmeichel saved, Bruce captained, and Cantona
dominated - the others followed in awe. Cantona's Double-winning goals
were often purely solo efforts: the dipping volley v Arsenal, the
midfield run v Tottenham, the parting of the Red Sea v Liverpool.

It was that idea, of Cantona diffusing his brilliance among the entire
team, that materialized in that beautiful counter-attack on Thursday
night. Cantona's spirit was behind every move: acting as captain in
defense, inspiring a young left-back to genius, submerging Cole's
natural egoism into the greater good of the team, slotting Cole's
sidefoot pass into the empty Newcastle goal, imperiously acknowledging
the crowd's acclaim, collar up, chest out. Cantona United 1, Also-rans 0.

But Andy Cole had a different idea: Andy Cole 1, Former Club 0. Three
against one, he clumsily tries to go past the keeper himself, thereby
denying us, through ignorance, greed, and lack of skill, the beautiful
manifestation of Captain and Team as One. Cole's wasted chances in 1995
have been forgiven, though not forgotten; the 1996 FA Cup Final has been
written off as one of those days; but it will take a miracle to absolve
him of this latest sin.

So, until next season at least, the best expression of the idea of Cantona
United still lies in Shakespeare's ancient vision (later used as sonnet
no. 13):

O, that you were yourself! but love, you are
No longer yours, than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some others give:
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination; then you were
Yourself again, after yourself's decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day,
And barren rage of death's eternal cold?
  O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know,
  You had a father: let your sons say so.

From: (Snaps)
Subject: God, and related insights
Date: Tue May 20 9:17:17 GMT 1997

I have just witnessed Suzanne Charlton, daughter of the legendary Bobby
and a weather girl at BBC TV, have a spluttering coughing fit live on
air during her forecast. I think someone probably just broke the news to

November, 1992. I was perched in this very chair when it flashed onto
teletext that United had signed that Cantona guy from Leeds for a
whopping great =A31m fee.
I didn't really have an opinion on the player (beyond 'artsy-fartsy
French ponce'), but I was delighted anyway because of the upcoming
anguish that I knew the defection would cause amongst the SheepShaggers
-- I was right and we haven't heard from them since. At the time United,
who had choked in the previous seasons Championship, were 12th in the
league and worryingly boring. A northern Arsenal, almost. Enter Cantona
from stage left.
Six months later we were Champions for the first time in 26 years, and
10 points ahead of our nearest rivals. We never looked back.

So last night, after hearing the numbing, but not unsurprising news that
he has decided to call it a day, I allowed myself to wallow in some
exhibitionist Geordie-inspired personal anguish. Cranking up the stereo,
I trawled through my record collection for the most melancholic music I
could find, so that I could brood awhile. A suitably tear-jerking
playlist was the order of the day -- Hey Jude (The Beatles), With Or
Without You (U2), If You Leave Me Now (Chicago), Creep (Radiohead), The
First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack), Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla
Ice), etc, etc.....

Now oddly enough, when I try to think of the ultimate Cantona vignette,
the all-defining cameo of what he meant to United, the one image that
keeps resurfacing is not of Eric himself, but of Maradona. More
specifically, Maradona in the first knock-out round of the 1990 World
Cup. Our friendly Argentine played 7 matches in the tournament. He was
fast asleep for 6 full games and 89 minutes 55 seconds of a seventh. In
his brief 5 seconds of awareness he decided to amuse himself by knocking
out Brazil.
To my mind, Cantona's redefinition of English football history at
Wembley last year is the only comparable equivalent.
You can hate the guy as much as you want, but the impudence, the sheer
fucking impudence sends chills down your spine. You would luvv it if he
had decided to play for your team. Luvv it. And you know it.

Cantona is undoubtedly the most important player in Manchester United
history. He doesn't have the ludicrous skill of George Best, he doesn't
have the raw bursting power of Bobby Charlton, he doesn't have the
blitzing aggression of Bryan Robson, he doesn't have the tragically
sublime 'everything' of Duncan Edwards. Nonetheless, Cantona's impact at
United supersedes them all because of the influence he had on his
team-mates. He made mediocre players look good. He made good players
look great. Most importantly, he made nervous players look supremely
confident. In short, he made Champions.
Without his arrival in 1992, I'm convinced that United would still be
looking for their 1st Championship in 31 years. Simple as that.
We shall not see his like again at Manchester United. There is only mild
satisfaction in knowing that every other team in England has never seen
his like before.

That said, I'm not particularly worried about Man United's ability to
now cope without Cantona on the playing field (as far as I'm concerned,
his best performance of the season came in the Charity Shield, before
the league campaign even started) and I see absolutely no reason to
assume our English dominance is under a major threat by anyone, Juninho
or no Juninho. My only worry is somewhat philosophical -- what's the
point without Eric?

Everything must one day come to an end. You just don't expect it when it
finally happens. In true schlock Hollywood fashion, in my my minds eye I
have an image of a scene that may have occured not too many months ago.
Cantona, near dusk, standing off to the side at the training ground. As
he quietly surveys the amazingly gifted, confident youngsters that
United now have in their first team, with a decades worth of even
younger talent waiting in the wings, Cantona rubs his chin, smiles and
utters but one final sentence, "My work here is done......."
And the sun goes down over The Cliff.

Subject: All hail Andy "King" Cole!
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998 15:48:44 +0100
From: Stig Oppedal (

In apocalyptic/prophetic/AAARRGGHH!! mode, stigopp Version 97.5
generated the following:

> Cole's wasted chances in 1995
> have been forgiven, though not forgotten; the 1996 FA Cup Final has been
> written off as one of those days; but it will take a miracle to absolve
> him of this latest sin.

Manchester United v Everton, Boxing Day 1997

Everton free-kick. The obvious hoof is more hopeless than hopeful, and
the attack of the second bananas is easily squashed by Berg. A quick
zig-zag passing spell sees the ball glide forward to Beckham, back to
Pallister, then forward again to Solskjaer inside the center circle.
Another incisive pass and the ball is with the red-hot Cole just outside
the Everton semi-circle, alone except for two snowmen keeping a
respectful distance.

As befits the Theater Of Dreams, Cole's next move is intangible. He
looks not up or to the side, but back - back to December 1996, to when
Cantona, from a similar position, regally lobbed the ball over the
Sunderland keeper and into the top left-hand corner. Disregarding the
irrelevancies that are timidly closing in, Special Agent 007 Million
Quid calmly announces

"My name is Cole. 'King' Cole."

and chips the ball in off the top left-hand post. The men from
N.O.W.H.E.R.E. are outwitted yet again.

Verily, I say unto thee: the miracle has occured. The collar was down,
the chest was in, the celebrations were most non-imperious - but the
spirit of Cantona United undeniably lives on, in the most unlikely of
guises. A track from my current fave CD, The Flaming Stars' "Sell Your
Soul To The Flaming Stars", might as well be the Premier League's theme

"Don't Mean A Thing If You Haven't Got The King"

Subject: The last 80 yards of Cantona United
Date: Mon, 18 May 1998 16:29:59 +0200
From: Stig Oppedal (

|Oh you've got green eyes|Oh you've got blue eyes|Oh you've got grey eyes|

- "Temptation" (1982 version), written and produced by New Order
- - - - -

Peter Englund's monumental study "Ofredsaar" ("Years of Strife") is a
cultural, historical, and biographical analysis of Sweden's involvement
in the cataclysmic Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). The extraordinary
duration of the war can be directly linked to the basic two-fold game
plan in vogue in the mid-17th century: if you're kicking ass, don't end
the war; otherwise, don't end the war. The Suedeheads exemplified this
tactic; after capturing Frankfurt an der Oder in 1631, they went for the
Double, and the resultant sack of Magdeburg violated, even by the
standards of the time, all sense of proportion and decency.

Below follows a brief excerpt from a pivotal chapter, the severity of
the abridgment balanced by the looseness of the translation. The Swedish
king, having emerged as the dominant player in the North after the
Thirty Years' War, seeks to enlarge his growing Baltic empire, and has
forced a decisive battle near Warsaw. The defending army is lead by the
protagonists of the chapter, a regiment of heavy cavalry known as the
Hussars. In passing, we should note that the "Swedish" army, though it
did contain fresh recruits and aging veterans fighting for "king and
country", was in large part a foreign legion of client soldiers and
sold-to-the-highest-bidder mercenaries; most prominent were the
Brandenburgian allies (the originators of the "Borussia" concept) and
other Deutsche marksmen. The chapter, a classic of historical
reconstruction, is entitled "The last eighty meters of the Middle Ages".

- - - - -
[Ofredsaar =A9 1993 Peter Englund, unauthorized English rendition =A9 1998
Stig Oppedal].

The defending army was archaic in its appearance, its way of thinking,
and its mode of fighting: it was a proud and brave army on horseback,
who valued above all spirit, panache, and huevos, and didn't have much
regard for drill, firearms and other unnecessary innovations. The army
was largely comprised of noblemen. The most distinguished and virtuous
aristocrats constituted the hard-core elite: the Hussars. Each one of
these Hussars were armed with a crooked sable, a longsword, a warhammer,
and a lance over five meters long; in addition, both the knights and
their horses were outfitted in radiant armor and chainmail, with richly
ornamented ironwork and resplendent costumes. At this point in history
they appeared as a picturesque anachronism on the battlefield, but their
reputation remained intact. Behind them lay many brilliant victories,
time and again defeating armies who outnumbered them; as late as 1605,
about 50 years earlier, the feared Hussars had slaughtered an entire
Swedish army "like a flock of hens". They were the bravest of the brave,
the pride of their nation. If anyone could repel the foreign invaders,
it was them. They were ordained as the spearhead in the attack that
intended to disrupt the allied battle-formation and hunt them down near
the sand dunes of the Wisla.
   The splendid apparition of the Hussars moved eastward over the
fields, heading straight for the left flank of the allies. About 500
meters away they advanced at a trot. They were greeted by allied
artillery. Overflowing white vapor billowed forth from the blazing
gunmouths, forming clouds of smoke in front of the batteries on the
other side of the field. Bullets cut through the dusty air and into the
ranks of the Hussars. Here and there horses fell. A howitzer battery
opened fire, managing the impressive feat of lobbing a grenade in
amongst the moving cavalry. As the Hussars swept forward, they left
behind them a sparse snail-like trail of dead and wounded, of fallen
horses and thrown riders.
   With 150 meters left the Hussars started to gallop. Like a fair and
radiant shadow of a cloud, they hurried forward over the uneven ground.
As they came closer, the battlefield clamor became ever more deafening.
The cannon fire intensified. The thundering of the horses' hooves mixed
with the rattling of the knights' armor, caused by the clapping together
of cuisses and tasses. A mighty cry went up from the flowing ranks of
men and horses, ranks that became ever more disorderly as the speed
   For the soldiers who waited, armed and ready, on the other side of
the field, the details became ever clearer as the distance between them
and the riders lessened. The Hussars were in truth a magnificent sight,
a piece of romantic splendor on horseback, both in their appearance and
attitude. Expensive robes and frocks sparkled, and the gold and silver
inlays of the equestrian armor glittered in the sun; tiger, lion,
panther, and lynx skins were draped around the Hussars' shoulders, and
eagle and hawk feathers on their saddles fluttered in the wind.
   When only 80 meters remained, the Hussars relinquished the reins and
the horses went into a full-fledged gallop.
   It was in this manner that war had been fought in Europe for the
previous 1000 years, ever since Valens' Roman legions had been overrun
by the Goth cavalry at Adrianople in 378. A pattern had formed that
would repeat itself time and again: Hastings 1066, Cresson 1187,
Bouvines 1214, Crécy 1346, Tannenberg 1410, and so forth - at the latter
instance the Hussars had thwarted the proud knights of the Teutonic
Order. The heavy cavalry and their violent shock attacks had influenced
the entire social and economic system, forming part of the basis for the
nobility's extensive political power. The feudal system in its classic
form had as one of its major aims to ensure that the lords had abundant
access to armored knights, the emblem and master of medieval warfare.
   In the twilight of the medieval era, the feudal nobility slowly, and
at first almost imperceptibly, were driven back by the men of the new
era - merchants, manufacturers, bureaucrats. This development cast
shadows over the battlefield. The knight on horse, just as slowly but
just as surely, saw himself be replaced by the common foot soldier, he
who had neither ancestry, traditions, or spurs of gold, but, like the
Swiss, long pikes and iron discipline, or like the English,
swift-shooting firearms that could flatten the armored ironhead from his
saddle at a distance of several hundred paces. While the knight had
packed his belongings and left the battlefields in the west, to be
transformed into a nostalgic song about the good life and noble courage,
he still remained on the battlegrounds of the east. For the Hussars who
now charged forward over the fields on their beautiful horses, combat
was in the main part the only vocation worthy of an aristocrat. His
battle-cry was a self-conscious demonstration of his highborn huevos;
for him, war retained its individual character, it was still a contest,
still a sport. The Swedes, on the other hand, were the foremost
practitioners of the new form of modern warfare, relying heavily on
muskets and other firearms. The highly disciplined, precisely drilled,
and firmly controlled Swedes resembled, in their tight and geometrically
perfect formations, an apparatus that moved and fought with an almost
mechanical precision.
   Eighty meters. That was how long the distance was when the Hussars
rode out of the Middle Ages and into a new era.
   Initially things went as expected. They swept forward, with
boisterous yells, striking furs, banner-decorated lances, and horses
foaming and lathered, descending upon the outer part of the allies' left
flank like a righteous avalanche. The thundering of the horses hooves,
the rattling of the armor and the battle-cries of the Hussars merged
with the blasts from the Swedish and Brandenburgian artillery fire to a
form a compact roar, as the uneven mass of horses and men collided with
the closed ranks of their opponents.
   At short distance the Brandenburgian guard fired a mighty salvo that
rained down over the Hussars. When being charged by heavy cavalry, the
idea is to hold your fire until the last possible moment, so as to
maximize the efficiency of the salvo. The Brandenburgian artillerists
had done just that, repelling some of the Hussars. Two of the Swedish
cavalry squadrons weren't as successful, however. As the Swedish
cavalry's main weapon was the pistol, and as the range of this weapon
was severely limited, it was particularly imperative that they wait
until the last second. The Hussars' shrieking attack jangled the nerves
of these two regiments. They fired a cracking salvo, but the distance
was too far. Instead of following the usual tactic of riding out to face
the Hussars in hand-to-hand combat, a moment of doubt afflicted the
cavalrymen. That was all it took. The flashing lances of the Hussars
swiftly descended upon them and penetrated their ranks. Men fell in the
smoke. The squadrons disintegrated and retreated backwards. Their
banners waved, wavered, then fell. Approximately half of the attacking
Hussars blew themselves like a gigantic projectile straight through the
first row of opponents.
   The Swedish and Brandenburgian regiments were as usual ordered in
several successive rows: the first, second, and third line of fire. The
Swedish regiments that had been overrun retreated backwards through the
gap between the squadrons of the second row. The Hussars pressed on. The
disturbance spread to the second row. The Deutsch mercenaries who stood
here, however, managed to strike back with their pistols and swords. The
Hussars crashed against them like the ocean against the rocks, and
stopped in their tracks. The force of their charge had, as usual,
dissipated in the first powerful thrust; when the Hussars were
additionally exposed to a deadly musket-fire from the side, they turned
around in the gunsmoke. Without support from the light-cavalry - whose
attack had been thwarted by a Swedish counter-offensive - they retreated
in disarray. Now a chaotic throng, they disappeared back towards the
sand dunes, where the flood of horses and men divided into lesser
streams and trickled away out of view.
   The attack, which had only taken a few short minutes, was over.
   Remaining on the field were about 150 cavalrymen, either dead or
severely wounded, in addition to a large amount of their beautiful,
precious horses. The Hussars, the very best the defending army could
muster, had failed.
- - - - -

Thus, a mercenary arsenal reduced an individualistic, aristocratic ethos
to a common mass of meaninglessness.

The virtues of this ethos - "spirit, panache, and huevos" - are clearly
expressed in the horses, themselves part of a wider significance; their
wholesale annihilation is not merely a matter of molecular
rearrangement. Paying tribute to these magnificent creatures, someone
once observed that "wherever man has left his footprint in the long
ascent from barbarism to civilization, we will find the hoofprint of the
horse beside it." In pre-modern times, the horse literally raised the
knight and the nobleman above the common crowd, advancing society and
culture in the process. Not a symbol of oppression or injustice - that
would have to be a purely human device - the horse can rather be
conceived as the symbolic transmitter of the foundations of Western
culture: from Heraklit to Mark E. Smith, from Sophocles to Kieslowski,
from Caesar to - Cantona.

Eric Cantona, unlike Caesar we should note, conquered both Gaul and
Britannia; ultimately, he liberated himself from them as well. Blurring
the distinction between stage and real life, Cantona was all about
feints, flicks, and finality, the former always in service of the
latter. On that basis he reigned at Old Trafford, his entrances, his
exits, the matter of legend.

From another wonderful passage in Ofredsaar, describing the Baroque
elegance of a certain high-ranking dignitary at the peace negotiations
at Osnabrück in the 1640's, I have taken the liberty of making one
slight alteration:

"Rows of golden wagons and livery-clad valets lined the narrow streets,
and the air vibrated with the sound of proud music. The aristocratic
Eric Cantona was one of those peacemakers who surrounded himself with a
splendor of such magnificence that even the French, refined as ever,
were impressed. He moved about only in a fully escorted royal carriage,
when he dined it was always to the accompaniment of 'flutes, drums, and
bassoons', and every time he felt tired and prepared for sleep, or
conversely felt refreshed and arose from bed, the significant event was
heralded by the sound of kettledrums and trumpets."

It was this very fanfare that Cantona enabled his team-mates to hear. In
doing so, he transformed them into, as Simon Barnes of the Times so
elegantly formulated it, "Cantona United". When Cantona himself moved
on, the imperial spirit didn't. Visiting teams were still treated as
inconsequential extras in a grand drama; the forages into Europe were
done without the promise that "our boys will be back home before
Christmas". Cole, a confidence player, scored at will, his very presence
enough to cause the ball to ricochet off four opponents and into the
net. Giggs, a confidence man, sold fakes and dummies, fooling the plucky
novice and the Grand Old Lady alike. Pallister, the epitome of the team,
dominated even European fixtures, striding forth from defense with
beckenbauerian spirit, reading counter-attacks with ease, seemingly
impervious to deceit - like Othello, the Moore of Venice. For the props,
as revealed in Act III, were provided by Kleenex.

The zenith and subsequent downfall of Cantona United can be pinpointed
exactly: Sunday, January 4, 1998, 13:29 GMT. Chelsea 0, Manchester
United 5. Top of the table, cruising in Europe, United totally destroyed
one of their closest rivals in the FA Cup, revealing their burning
ambition for an unprecedented Treble. The Times wrote in awe: "They
looked like a group of supermen." More to the point, they looked like a
group of Cantonas, all-conquering, imperial, ready to ascend the throne
and proclaim what was rightfully theirs: the doom of Tantalos, forever
grasping at the unattainable. The European Cup, the FA Cup, the league
hat-trick, all lay out of reach, just as Cantona himself had been
punished for serving ambrosia and nectar to mere mortals: "...a
brilliant through-ball from Solskjaer... Cole slides it in low across
the box - Cantona must score from a yard out! - no! Kohler gets a foot
to it!" I can almost see Cantona lifting the European Cup...

There are other explanations. Adorno and Horkheimer's theory of negative
dialectic, that within enlightenment and progress lie the seeds of
barbarism and regression, is exemplified by the United: their most
spectacular triumph of the season only served to undermine their future
prosperity. By attempting to liberate themselves from the
Cantona/Tantalos myth, they had merely created a new one: that of
invincibility. It was a myth that was swiftly shattered. 5-0 up, their
guard went down. From 13:29 onwards, the match ended Chelsea 3,
Manchester United 0. The slack finale was dismissed as irrelevant at the
time, but became more significant in the following weeks and months, as
it signaled the Fall. Butt went from Bryan Robson to Stewart Robson,
Pallister from nonesuch to nonchalant, Cole from hot to not. "Who is
Stewart Robson?", you may ask, and therein lies your answer.

The transfusion of the idea of Cantona United also proved insufficient
without the arms to back it up. In his political treatise The Prince,
Machiavelli formulated, with customary bluntness, what we may call the
"Keane Doctrine": "All armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed
ones have been destroyed. The nature of people is variable, and whilst
it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that
persuasion. Thus it is necessary to take such measures that, when the
people believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by
force." Four of the outstanding leaders of the 90's - Robson, Ince,
Bruce, and Cantona - were no longer with the club; Schmeichel's force
field declines proportionally with the square distance from his penalty
area; thus, only Roy Keane remained as the team's enforcer. "Only" is
definitely not the right word - the one thing more terrifying than
playing alongside him is playing against him. However, when Keane was
sidelined for the season through self-inflicted stupidity - the negative
dialectic inherent in all hard men - United were without steel, without
menace, without force. And they no longer believed.

Whatever the exact reason, Cantona United never recovered from going 5-0
up. How appropriate, then, that the final goal in the coffin was
hammered in by Teddy Sheringham. His summer rumblings at Tottenham - "I
want to go somewhere and win something" - had, given the circumstances,
a clear subtext - "I want to go to Manchester United and replace Eric
Cantona"; clearly, the only player with enough huevos to make such a
statement was Gabriel Batistuta. The vain usurper, on the other hand,
only managed to reveal his own inadequacies, becoming the least
successful successor since the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD (1812

The auctoritas of Cantona United was thus steadily eroded by Sheringham,
from inventing the spurious 4-6-0 formation along with Jordi Cruyff, to
looking utterly lost against Monaco, like an albatross in search of the
Swiss navy.

The dignitas was stripped by Beckham: stage-diving like a Viennese prima
donna, pouting like an insulted five-year old Mozart, playing like a
Salieri with delusions of grandeur.

Eventually the gloria vanished as well, in the albanian performance in
the principality, in the white flag indifference of the title showdown,
in the lifeless anti-climax against the arch-rivals.

And thus the stage was set for the last 80 yards of Cantona United.

The general scenario during the winter saw l'Arsenal n wins behind with
n-1 games in hand. By Manchester United's home encounter with Newcastle
on April 18th, however, the premise had radically changed: anything but
a victory and the Londonaires would blast their way to the top of the
table, a point in the hand and six in the bush.

Newcastle's recent Swedish acquisition Genericson gave the visitors an
early lead; the United defenders typically just stood about, arms aloft
like a bunch of City stock brokers. Schmeichel limped off soon after
with a recurrent hamstring injury, sustained a few weeks earlier from
dashing back to goal after a failed attempt to repeat last year's
almost-golazo. Beckham, a walking case of yellow fever never diagnosed
and hence never cured, showed his stuff by blocking the keeper's
attempted throw-out with his fist (and, rather astonishingly, actually
received a yellow card). Sheringham, as was later revealed in a
Pulitzer-prize winning piece of investigative journalism, was also out
on the pitch. Sandwiched in between a lot of humdrum "action", United
somehow managed to equalize, a delightful cross from Giggs headed in by
the 6th Spice. In the mean-time, l'Arsenal were thrashing Wimbledon 5-0.

10 minutes left. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came on for Gary Neville; a
striker for a right-back. Last year's sensation had been this season's
injury struggler, but he immediately injected life and creativity into
the team. United's play became more urgent, more daring, more aware of
the inadequacy of a 1-1 draw, a mentality that had pervaded the Cantona
United of old, but was now only seen in desperate last gasp finishes.
Pallister's stunning volley almost dipped into the top right-hand
corner, but the keeper fisted it over. Further pressure resulted in a
series of corners. One of these fell to Solskjaer, who, facing a forest
of legs, produced a ferocious shot that was barely cleared off the line.
United pressed on. With a minute to go, they won yet another corner.
Everyone bar the keeper pushed forward.

The corner was headed away as far as the semi-circle. There Ketsbaia
dispossessed Phil Neville, who fell, and played the ball forward to
Robert Lee near the half-way line. It was at this time that Manchester
United's cardinal error became apparent. In their desperation to get a
decisive goal, no one had considered that Gary Neville, their
stay-behind man at corners, was no longer on the field:

Robert Lee had a free route on the United goal.

Technically speaking, United's last man in defense was Solskjaer; in
reality, he was still inside the Newcastle penalty area.

80 yards. That was the distance Solskjaer had to cover in order to
prevent Robert Lee from winning it for the South.

Showing tremendous spirit, the striker set away in hot pursuit of
Hegelian metaphysics. History, in Hegel's view, moves on two levels: the
personal level of individual goals, desires, and actions, and the macro
level of History. This was nothing less than the Auslegung (lit.
"spreading out" or "development") through historical time of a Geist
("Spirit") which in the final instance meant freedom or self-existence,
bei sich selbst sein ("being in itself"). On the individual level,
Solskjaer's intention was to dispossess Lee, storm back up-field, and
fashion a last-gasp goal; on the macro level, Cantona United was nearing
its completion, and Solskjaer would indeed soon be by himself.

Though by no means a vicious player, Solskjaer has practically redefined
the bruising concept of the "striker's tackle", his misspent enthusiasm
unmatched even by Cantona himself. We, bless'd as we are with a modern
overview, could foresee the outcome of the 80-yard sprint: Solskjaer,
after a heroic effort, would almost (always almost) catch up with Lee,
but just outside the penalty area he'd opt for a desperate lunge at the
ball that would ineviatably end in a brutal professional foul. The match
facts were as good as written in the Geistes Tagblatt:

"Rot Kart: Solskjaer (Man United) 89'."

The events unfolded with mechanical certainty. The anticipated hack at
the edge of the penalty box was taken straight out of Cantona's
pre-Stoic days, a sliding kung fu tackle that temporarily relieved Lee
of direct contact with Mother Earth, resulting in a veritable
Auslegung in the Hegelian mode.

Solskjaer, on his way to the dressing room even as Uriah Rennie
flourished United's first red card of the season, received a hero's
welcome from the crowd. Sheer, cathartic brutality in the face of
frustration played its part, of course, but there was more to the
standing ovation than that. The crowd recognized that had the other
players shown such effort, such determination, such self-sacrifice, then
neither United nor Solskjaer would be in the position that they were. By
preventing defeat he gave his team-mates renewed hope of a dramatic
victory; needless to say, the new dawn faded.

Thus, a poetic transfiguration ended in an unrepentant transgression,
though, hopefully, this is not "The End". As Hegel so beautifully

"The life of a people ripens to a certain fruit; its activity aims at
the complete manifestation of the principle which it embodies. But this
fruit does not fall back into the bosom of the people that produced and
matured it; on the contrary, it becomes a poison-draught to it. That
poison-draught it cannot let alone, for it has an insatiable thirst for
it: the taste of the draught is its annihilation, though at the same
time the rise of a new principle."

The dialectical tension between the ripened fruit of "Cantona" and the
barren tree of "Not-Cantona" (a.k.a. "Sheringham") must be reconciled in
a synthesis at a higher level. A void has been created that Nature
itself demands be filled, even as the self-same Nature slowly, and at
first almost imperceptibly, is in danger of turning into a meaningless
Void itself. Thus, while 50 000 at the Theatre of Dreams rose to applaud
the setting of the sun, the present of the past king remains in flight,
more important than ever. Eric Cantona, through the very act of
self-determined retirement,