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The actor best known for his time-travelling roles in Life on Mars and Dr Who, dropped into Old Trafford recently to front a new documentary…
Tell us about your first OT experience and the impact it had on you…
A friend’s dad brought me when I was 12. It was a cup game against West Ham and Steve Coppell scored. (United won 2-0; FA Cup third round, 8 January 1983). It had a huge impact on my life, just walking in and seeing the pitch for the first time.
Who was your first United hero?
My first hero was Coppell, not just because he scored the first goal I ever saw at Old Trafford, but because he was a right winger and that was my position when I played. He was small, fast and dynamic. I also had a soft spot for Gary Bailey.
Who’s the best player you’ve seen at Old Trafford?
With apologies to Ryan Giggs, it would have to be Eric Cantona, for the aura and the enigma. There was just something about his attitude, the way he used to walk out, collar up, as thousands of fans shouted his name. It’s the closest thing you can get now to seeing gladiators at the Coliseum in Roman times. Eric was extraordinary to watch, especially for me as an actor, just to study his face and think, ‘How must he feel?’ He was a really special player. He did stuff I’d never seen before.
So is Ryan someone else you’ve admired?
Yes, he’s been a long-time favourite. He’s still playing and that’s amazing in itself because I feel like I’ve grown up with Giggsy. He’s a shining example, the perfect footballer. If you’re a kid today, you should look to Giggsy.
When they next build a statue at OT, who should it be of and why?
It should be Sir Alex Ferguson, definitely. I don’t need to explain why. He should be right next to Sir Matt Busby.
Do you ever get stick off other actors about supporting United?
They can’t really give me stick, can they? Especially not David Morrissey (co-star in BBC drama State of Play) who’s a Liverpool fan. What could he possibly say?
What does the stadium mean to you now?
I live in London now, and I have done for years and years, but I grew up in the North so every time I come back I get a warm feeling. Old Trafford is a lovely place to be, with seventy-odd thousand like-minded people.