Eric Cantona won four Premier League titles and two doubles for Manchester United.

He played 45 times for France.

Some of the 82 goals he scored during his time at Old Trafford are among the most spectacular in the club's history.

But he will perhaps always be best remembered for the infamous kung-fu kick he launched at Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons during a stormy match at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995 - this day 25 years ago.

A quarter of a century on it remains one of the most extraordinary moments in British sport.

Cantona being led off the pitch

And according to the man himself, in typically contrary fashion, it was the highlight of his football career.

Asked on BBC's Football Focus in 2011 what the his best moment in football was, he responded: "When I did the kung fu kick on the hooligan, because these kind of people don't have to be at the game.

"I think maybe it's like a dream for some, you know sometimes to kick these kind of people.

"So I did it for them. So they are happy. It's a kind of freedom for them."

The attack came four minutes into the second half of what had until that point been a fairly turgid game.

Moments earlier Cantona had been red-carded for kicking Palace defender Richard Shaw after the pair challenged for a punt downfield from Peter Schmeichel.

As the Frenchman walked off down the side of the pitch, escorted by United kitman Norman Davies, Palace fan Matthew Simmons jumped up from his seat and charged down the aisle, allegedly shouting: "You French b******. F*** off back to France, you mother f*****."

Cantona leap-frogged over the advertising hoardings and planted a flying-kick onto Simmons' chest, followed up by a right-handed punch.

Busy reorganising his depleted team Alex Ferguson didn't see the kick, only catching the tailend of the incident.

It wouldn't be until 4am the next morning that Fergie decided to watch back footage of the game and realised the seriousness of what had happened.

Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona celebrate with the Premiership Trophy in the dressing room after the FA Carling Premiership Match between Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford, Manchester on May 3, 1993

In a pre-social media age the first the wider world knew of the assault came when BBC's Sportsnight showed highlights of the match, preceded by Des Lynam's stony-faced introduction.

"Two big Premiership games on Sportsnight tonight, and at one of them, some of the most extraordinary scenes witnessed at a football ground in this country."

The fall-out was immediate and the next day's newspapers went to town.

The Sun's front page carried the headline 'YOU THUG', while The Mirror asked 'Is this the end for the madman?'.

But not everyone spun into moral panic.

Radio DJ Danny Baker, speaking on BBC Five Live said 'Most football fans just thought the whole thing was incredibly funny'.

Richard Williams, writing in the Independent on Sunday, said: "The more we discovered about Mr Simmons, the more Cantona’s assault looked like the instinctive expression of a flawless moral judgement."

And crucially Cantona retained the support of the most United supporters

United, for their part, banned him until the end of the season and fined him the maximum two weeks' wages, £10,800.

The FA later extended the ban until the end of September.

On March 23 Cantona was in the dock at East Croydon magistrates' court facing an assault charge.

After pleading guilty he was jailed for two weeks.

His legal team, led by United club lawyer Maurice Watkins, immediately launched an appeal which would see the sentence reduced to 120  hours community service.

Ferguson stood by Cantona
Ferguson stood by Cantona

Then came that press conference.

Knowing he would have to say something Cantona, according to Watkins, began scribbling some ideas on a bit of paper.

"Eric wasn't too keen but he said 'OK, but I would like to say something'," Watkins told the BBC in 2015.

"Then we started drafting what he was going to say. He was scribbling on a bit of paper and he asked me 'what is the name of that big ship that catches fish'. I said 'that's a trawler Eric'. 'And the big bird that flies over the sea?'. 'A seagull'. Then he wrote it out and we had the famous saying."

Eric Cantona scored the equaliser from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool in his first game back following his ban for attacking Matthew Simmons

Cantona's two sentence address, the only words he spoke, has now gone down in football history.

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you."

Watch: Eric Cantona on seagulls and trawlers

After the furore had died down Cantona seriously considered packing it all in.

It took all of Fergie's unrivalled man-mangement skills to persuade him otherwise.

The Scot went to Paris to and in a restaurant, which had been closed for the meeting, managed to talk Cantona into staying at Old Trafford.

"Those hours spent in Eric’s company in that largely deserted restaurant," Ferguson later said, "added up to one of the more worthwhile acts I have performed in this stupid job of mine."

Exactly 250 days after the kick Cantona played for United again, scoring the equaliser from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

By that point United had lost the Premier League title they'd won for the previous two seasons to an Alan Shearer-inspired Blackburn Rovers.

But his return inspired the club to the double in 1995-96 and helped lay the groundwork for the emergence of the Class of 92.

And we all know what happened after that.