Giggs: Cantona's Portugal camp was catalyst for success in Manchester

Ryan Giggs believes a well-timed training camp in Portugal proved to be the inspiration behind Eric Cantona's stunning success at Manchester United.

Tuesday is the 20th anniversary of Cantona's arrival at Old Trafford from Leeds.

When the Premier League celebrated its 20th anniversary last spring, Cantona was nominated in five categories, more than any other individual. But he did not actually win any.

However, if there had been a selection for 'most significant transfer', Cantona surely would have been it.

After all, his departure from Leeds - champions at the time - for United is largely credited as the reason Sir Alex Ferguson's team ended their 26-year wait for the title, the catalyst that won them the crown four years out of five, and providing the example from which the 'Class of 92' also dominated the English game.

Giggs saw it all. And the veteran Welshman, 39 next week, does not underestimate the value of that trip to Portugal.

'It was a bit of a lucky break for Eric,' said Giggs. 'The game immediately after he signed was Arsenal away.

'He didn't play but he watched it, then came away with us to a training camp in Portugal where we played Benfica.

'Overall, we were away for four or five days as a team, which gave him the ideal chance to get to know everybody.

'He fitted in straight away. He played alongside Mark Hughes in the first half and Brian McClair in the second.

'Then when we got back, I got injured in the following match against City, he came on and instantly was a revelation.

'He was that link between midfielders and forwards we had been missing.

'He made goals, he scored goals. Manchester United was made for him.'

Giggs was amongst those who soaked up all the knowledge, who stayed back after training to perfect their techniques, as Cantona used to do.

Yet, it seems there was another element, something that cannot be measured to any degree.

Without having to say anything, Cantona was able to lift those around him.

'A lot of people think he was a bit aloof but, to us, he was just one of the lads,' said Giggs. 'The fact he fitted in straight away helped on the pitch...

'He just had a real presence about him, an aura which worked in different ways.

'For us, knowing Eric was in the team was a boost.

'But the opposition were also acutely aware he could come up with a little bit of magic to unlock their defence.'