There was a terrible atmosphere on the trip as soon as the team stepped off the plane in Istanbul.
And when the time came for Manchester United to reproduce their impressive domestic form in Europe, they were unable to flick the switch.
Needing at least to score, after the wasteful 3-3 draw in the first leg at Old Trafford, and with Galatasaray players keen to throw themselves to the ground, Eric Cantona grew frustrated.
To everyone’s bewilderment, referee Karl Rothlisberger blew right on 90 minutes with the score at 0-0 (it’s fair to say United probably did not have a goal in them anyway).
Cantona, incensed, went to remonstrate with the official.
Despite the game being over, Rothlisberger quickly pulled out a red card and pointed it in Cantona’s direction as the teams were shielded off the field and towards the dressing rooms.
In the tunnel, there was a huge altercation with Cantona and Bryan Robson in the middle of it.
In a scuffle with police, both players were hurt.
“At the end of one tunnel was the sanctuary of our dressing room, but before we could reach it, I saw a policeman punch Eric Cantona in the back of the head,” said United defender Steve Bruce.
Midfielder Roy Keane recalled: “In the dressing room Eric went crazy. He was determined to go back outside to sort out the rogue cop who’d been wielding his truncheon.
“Eric was a big, strong lad. He was serious. He insisted he was going to kill ‘that f****r’.
"It took the combined efforts of the manager, (assistant) Brian Kidd and a few of the players to restrain him.
“Normally I wouldn’t have backed off a fight but even I wasn’t up for this one. There were a lot of Turks out there!”
Cantona was vociferous in his demand for the truth. “I was punched on the back of the head and it’s a great scandal,” he said. Asked what he said to referee Karl Rothlisberger, he replied: “I just told him he was a bad referee.”
Retelling the tale in his book My Story, Cantona said: “What annoyed me most is that I was hit on the head with a truncheon by a policeman, the sort of fellow who sends you to prison for being out of work, or when you are hungry and you go and steal a bar of chocolate from the supermarket.
“Of course, I was upset at being knocked out of the European Cup, at the spoiling tactics of the opponents, at the fact that no stoppage time was added, and by being given the red card after the game had ended.
“But, above all, I had been hit from behind by that s*** of a Turkish policeman. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again some time!”
On being knocked out of Europe, he said: “Galatasaray is a little team but today so were Manchester United.”
Manager Alex Ferguson could barely believe it.
“Eric complained about no time being added on,” he said. “There was hardly a minute extra. Then a policeman punched Cantona. We have filmed evidence of that.”
It was the first time United had seen the volcanic side of Cantona’s temperament.
But chairman Martin Edwards recalled: “It wasn’t just him – there was Robson who was involved in the scuffle in the tunnel, so it wasn’t necessarily the same as his previous problems.
“We knew what we were getting, we knew he flared up at times. But his value to the team meant it was worth putting up with it.”
*Adapted by Mike Walters from King Eric – Portrait Of the Artist Who Changed English Football, published by Reach Sport and written by Wayne Barton, is on sale now from Amazon in ebook or hardback format
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