Cantona, wearing a flat cap, red shirt, slacks and sporting a beard spearing from hipster to ZZ Top, uttered lines from King Lear: "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.”
In front of an audience that contained the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the 53-year-old magisterially moved on from William Shakespeare to add: “Soon the science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon the science will fix the cells to the state and so we will become eternal.
“Only accidents, crimes, wars, will still kill us but unfortunately, crimes, wars, will multiply. I love football. Thank you.”
Cantona is the third Manchester United player to receive the President's Award award after Bobby Charlton in 2008 and David Beckham last year. Other recipients include Johann Cruyff, Alfredo Di Stefano and Eusebio.
"This award not only recognises his career as a player of the highest calibre, but also honours him for the person he is," said Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin.
"He is a man who refuses compromise, who stands up for his values, who speaks his mind and in particular puts his heart and his soul into supporting the causes he believes in."
Cantona played 45 times for France but retired before the 1998 World Cup triumph. In a 14 year career, he won two Ligue 1 titles with Marseilles and five in England with Leeds United and Manchester United. But controversy clouded the achievements.
In 1988 Cantona was temporarily suspended from the French national squad for insulting the team manager Henri Michel.
In 1995 he was banned from football for eight months after attacking a Crystal Palace supporter who was jeering him after he was sent off.
When he appeared at a press conference following a successful his appeal against a prison sentence for his assault on the fan, Cantona said: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”
Since retiring in 1997, Cantona has turned to acting in films and in plays. His photographs and paintings have also been exhibited.