Sir Alex Ferguson and Ian McShane at Old Trafford.

My United with Hollywood actor Ian McShane

Our 'My United' series - in which famous Reds enthusiasts tell us all about their love for the club - continues with well-known TV and film actor Ian McShane, who hails from Lancashire.

The star of Deadwood and Lovejoy, whose father played for the club under Sir Matt Busby, revealed all about his rich history with the Reds when speaking to Inside United magazine in May 2016. Here's what he had to say... 

You must have had a unique perspective on being a United fan, with your dad playing for the team?
“My dad, Harry, came to United towards the end of his career and it was a fitting end. We came here in 1950 from Blackburn and, when he finished his career around 1954, it was at a time when Matt Busby was just beginning to bring the young players forward - the Busby Babes. Like many players of his generation, he had lost five or six years of his career to the War, but he had really great times here and he settled after retiring. He should have won a league championship medal in 1951/52 but sadly he got injured and didn't make enough appearances. I got to see him play for Manchester United as a boy - it was thrilling! After my dad retired, he partly managed Oldham. He was still working with young players - he coached for a year at Salford Grammar School when Albert Finney (actor and United fan) was there. He became the first DJ at Old Trafford, and later he became a scout at United. He found lots of good young players like Andy Ritchie, Wes Brown and, I think, Nicky Butt.” 

Can you remember the first match you saw?
“I have no idea, but I do remember coming to Old Trafford for a night match in the European Cup against Real Madrid in 1957, when they ran out in their all-white outfit... they looked like gods, all tanned and healthy! I remember coming to the first match at Old Trafford after Munich against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup and I can remember standing in the terraces watching United with Sir Bobby Charlton. I have huge memories of this place [Old Trafford].” 

Harry McShane posing in a Manchester United shirt in October 1951.
Ian's father Harry ended his career as a Red.

When did you first become friends with Sir Alex Ferguson?
“From way back, when he first came to United. My dad was scouting for United when Sir Alex first arrived, and I was very close to my mum and dad so, whenever I came up to Manchester, I'd go to a game. I really got to know him in 1993 when we were invited to the 25th anniversary of the European Cup final. They had a big do up at Mottram Hall with all the players, I spent the weekend up here with my wife and we got to know Alex and Cathy. Since then, we've been great friends. I see him when he comes out to New York or LA, and I've seen him and the team when they come out to the States on tours. He is a great friend.” 

What are your memories of Munich?
“I was at school - Salford Grammar - when I heard about the disaster, it was devastating. We actually took in Johnny Berry's family for a while. They only lived round the corner and we took in the kids until Johnny recovered, thankfully. It's forever part of the club. and to come back 10 years later and win the European Cup was amazing. I was at that game too - my dad was working for the club and he got me a couple of tickets. What a great night!” 

Your acting breakthrough coincided with United's great time in the swinging sixties. What are your memories of that era?
“I became friends with some of the players, like Paddy Crerand and George Best. In the summer of 1966, I was up here at Granada doing a series called You Can't Win and in the first week I bumped into George and Mike Summerbee. We hung around for that whole summer - we didn't remain close because I was always away working but, whenever we saw each other, we would go out... heady times! George was unbelievable, though - as brave as a lion, and a great header of the ball. He was a great tackler too, he could do anything. He must be up there as the greatest player I've ever seen.”

Who was your first United hero?
“My dad! But after my dad had left the club, I still used to go to Old Trafford - that Sir Matt Busby team was extraordinary. I met Duncan Edwards and Eddie Colman. Duncan was such a colossus - he was extraordinary - but I think Eddie was my favourite from that team. Eddie was this skilful Salford lad, he was a real genius on the ball and he had a bit of cheek, a bit of swagger.” 

Eddie Colman playing for Manchester United in April 1957.
Busby Babe Eddie Colman was among Ian's first United heroes.

Any banter about football on set when you're filming?
“I did a movie called Jawbone with Ray Winstone, who's a big West Ham fan and I have sometimes been with him to watch them. Michael Smiley - a very good Irish actor - was also in it and he's a big United fan. The first thing he said to me when I got on set was 'You're a Red - that's fantastic!'” 

What do you think of Eric Cantona, the actor?
“I like Eric, he was always a little more worldy than your average footballer. That's not being rude to footballers but Eric had that quality about him. He found his home at United. That is one of the great things that happened for Sir Alex Ferguson - he will tell you that. When Eric came here... it was like theatre watching him.” 

Video
Eric Cantona celebrates scoring a goal for United.
Watch the first of Eric Cantona's 82 United goals, away at Chelsea in 1992.

Which team do you most want United to beat?
“Oh, Arsenal! All my friends in London are Gooners. Around 1992/93, I went to a United game at Highbury and, after the game, I was leaving when Eric Cantona was coming out the players' entrance. I started talking to him and some Arsenal fans passing spotted me and started singing 'Lovejoy's a Gooner! Lovejoy's a Gooner!' I said, 'I'm ****ing not!' I have nightmares about seeing 'Lovejoy's a Gooner' on my gravestone!” 

What does Manchester United mean to you?
“It's such a part of your life. I still get excited coming over to see a game at Old Trafford. It's a way of life - Manchester United are ingrained in you from being a kid. I loved playing football as a kid. It's the most graceful game in the world, it can be the cruellest game in the world, but that is what makes football great... it never stops. Manchester United, the way they play, they have always been about fearless, attacking, entertaining football. They are the greatest drama of all!” 

Ian McShane was speaking to the May 2016 edition of Inside United magazine. Subscribe now for future editions

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