Cantona won four Premier League titles in five years with United in the 1990s and scored 64 goals for the Old Trafford club in 143 appearances.
The France international, who won 45 caps for his country, also supports the Common Goal initiative, which funds soccer charities worldwide.
UEFA said the award “recognizes outstanding achievements, professional excellence, and exemplary personal qualities”.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who selected Cantona for the award, paid a glowing tribute to the 53-year-old.
Ceferin said: “This award not only recognizes his career as a player of the highest calibre but also honors him for the person 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 will join an illustrious list of previous winners which includes Sir Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, Alfredo Di Stefano and Eusebio.
He will receive the award in Monaco on Thursday, where the Champions League group-stage draw is due to take place.