Cantona ate McDonald's after being sentenced for his kung fu attack on a fan

Cantona after his moment of madness. Credit: Reuters

Eric Cantona was relaxed and even ate McDonald's in the moments after he received a two-week prison sentence for his kung fu-style attack on a Crystal Palace fan, according Manchester United's former head of security.

The football world was stunned 20 years ago when Cantona, after being dismissed for petulantly kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw during the second half of a Premiership encounter at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995, lost his temper so spectacularly as he was escorted along the touchline towards 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 before he was restrained by United kit man Norman Davies.

Cantona was immediately banned by United for the remainder of the season and the Football Association 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 alone with Cantona after he was taken into custody and speaking on Cantona's Kung Fu Kick, which airs on BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday night, he revealed how nonchalant the Frenchman was in the aftermath of the judge's ruling.

"I followed him down the stairs with the prison wardens," Kelly said.

Cantona the movie star. Credit: PA

"When we stopped he looked around at me and sort of shrugged his shoulders and I said, 'Listen, we'll get you out of here soon'.

"We proceeded into the cell, we were just sitting down together when the police warden came in and said, 'Don't take any food from here, I'll go down the road and get you some McDonald's and chips.'"

Kelly went on to reveal that Cantona was prepared to accept the two-week sentence and even signed autographs and posed for photographs.

"I gave him my phone so he phoned up his wife Isabelle to tell her what the sentence was and he phoned up Marseille," Kelly added.

"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, 'No way, let's wait until (United director) Maurice (Watkins) gets back and let's see what the outcome is.'

"He was relaxed, signed autographs for the people, took a couple of photos when he was in there. He was just so cool about it."

  • Cantona's Kung Fu Kick airs on BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday at 7.30pm.