There was a feeling of inevitability all those years ago when Eric Cantona, enfant terrible and martial arts amateur extraordinaire, returned from his lengthy FA-imposed ban for being the true incarnation of “The Shit Who Hit The Fan”, to face the old enemies of Man U. Liverpool were the visitors, before an expectant crowd of Devon day-trippers at the Theatre of Hollow Myths. The script was written, and although the scousers aimed to poop Eric’s party by taking the lead, the man from Marseilles had the last laugh, ensuring a draw for his side with – you’ve guessed it – a penalty.
All of that was a long, long time ago – but these old rivals have memories like elephants (and backsides to match, for many of them). So Cantona’s ban, comeback and celebratory strike will not have been forgotten by fans of either side. Even though the personnel will be almost entirely different, give or take a superannuated Ryan Giggs, there will be many who might wonder if that old script might not be taken out and dusted off. Man U host Liverpool in the League Cup next week. Suarez is available for the first time since being banned for biting without due care and attention. He’d love to take a chunk out of Man U’s season – wouldn’t he just. Could it really, actually happen?
Think of it: Suarez is the man that the Man U faithful love to hate after his run-in with their own less-than-likable Patrice Evra – and the subsequent Handshakegate Scandal. All very petty and handbags of course, as matters relating to bruised Man U egos tend to be. But these things matter when you have a close rivalry based on mutual antipathy between Merseyside and, erm, most of the South of England. Can Suarez, like Cantona so many years before, make his long-awaited comeback from durance vile, in the media glare – and, again like Cantona, stuff it up a hated enemy?
There would be such a neat reciprocity about it, if it actually came to pass. How funny, how satisfactory it would be. Cantona made his mark at the Liverpool fans’ end of the Theatre of Hollow Myths – could Suarez possibly end up laughing in the faces of the Stretford End?
I have a great respect for football omens and fate in general. It’s tempting to look up the odds against Liverpool to win 2-1, Suarez to score at any time. Anything above 10-1 might just tempt me to have a punt on that. Come on, Liverpool!!