Having shot to fame by finishing second in the British version of talent show The X Factor, singer and passionate Manchester United fan Olly Murs is on the crest of a wave following the release of his new album ‘Right Place, Right Time’.
Currently riding high at No1 in the UK charts, much like United in the Premier League, he caught up with FIFA.com to discuss his love for the Red Devils, his teenage desires to be the next David Beckham and the FIFA Ballon d’Or.
FIFA.com: We hear you are a Manchester United fan, and quite a big one at that.
Olly Murs: I’m a massive United fan, been supporting them for a long time now. I’ve got a box there and a season ticket, and I’ve supported them ever since I was a little kid. My dad’s a big fan and David Beckham is one of my biggest idols, so it was all something I fell in love as I was growing up. Being young and having blonde hair myself I obviously thought I was the next Beckham, so that’s largely why I continued supporting the club and it went on from there.
So Beckham was quite an influence on you in your younger days?
Beckham was my idol, I wanted to look like him, I wanted to play like him, I wanted to have a girlfriend like his. I think everyone had idols as a kid, especially when you are a football player and that’s what I wanted to do, become a professional, but was obviously never good enough to do it.
Did you used to play a lot?
I played football all the time, I was a semi-pro for a local team called Witham Town (currently in the eighth tier of English football) and was in and out of the first team, playing with the reserves. I was a goal-scorer, playing up front, it was great.
When did you first start going to watch United play?
My first game was Henrik Larsson’s debut, because getting a ticket for United was tough and being a young lad from Essex at the time, getting to Manchester wasn’t easy and I didn’t have the money. I think it was against Aston Villa and Larsson scored his first goal and it was a great time. Going to Old Trafford was amazing, the best experience in the world. I know football fans who hate United, but they always say that being at the ground is just a different kind of vibe – once you’re in the stadium it’s incredible. It’s an amazing place to go and watch football.
And how did it compare to seeing games on TV?
Watching a game of football live is brilliant: getting to see these athletes in full flow, the fitness they have, the way play and pass, the vision they have and how they see a game, as well as how a player can come on and completely change the outcome of a game. I’d recommend it to anyone.
Which game would you rank as the best you’ve watched?
Of the matches I’ve seen live it’s probably the game between Chelsea and United from last season which finished 3-3. It’s not often I get the chance to go to Champions League games and it’s not easy to get tickets for things like finals, but that match in particular was just a great game of football between two of the top teams in the country.
How would you say the season has been up until now?
It’s been great so far, we’ve been going behind a lot – it’s 13 times so far this season, but we still manage to win the games, so it’s a bit of a tricky position for us to be in really. I think we’ve been ok so far, I wouldn’t say we’ve been great, we can be a lot better, but I think we have shown good signs. We can move onwards and upwards and if we can be top of the table leading into Christmas and New Year there’s no better side in the second half of the season than Manchester United. We’re a club who always want to win trophies, and we of course want our title back, but if you look at us in comparison to other teams - we are through in the Champions League, our players are coming back to fitness - I think we are in a position to be challenging.
And what have you made of the new signings?
Robin van Persie’s been brilliant, he’s really been great. I think [Shinji] Kagawa is going to get better during the next couple of seasons – I think he’s had a good, solid start but he’s someone who’s getting used to Old Trafford, the style of play and we’re also trying to find a position for him in the team as well. He’s played well in fits and starts this season, but he’s definitely someone to look out for. We’ve got a good squad of players – Javier Hernandez has been great this season – but I think we’re still missing a defensive midfielder, which I’m sure Sir Alex and the club knows, so hopefully we will get one in January or at the end of the season.
You’ve also played in a few charity matches yourself. Has that fulfilled those dreams of playing at the top level somewhat?
Yeah it’s brilliant, it’s great to actually get the chance to play at Old Trafford yourself and perform, be on the big stage and play where all the United greats have. Being in the dressing room and everything that comes with it is just brilliant, so that was an amazing opportunity and one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I’m guessing you also got to share the pitch with a few impressive names too.
I got to play against [Zinedine] Zidane, [Ryan] Giggs, Larsson, [Rafael] Van der Vaart, [Jens] Lehmann, Roy Keane, Clarence Seedorf and Jaap Stamm, and I got to play with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Lee Sharpe. It was amazing as I got to play with some of my idols and a lot of great ex-pros.
The FIFA Ballon d’Or is also just around the corner. Who would you rank as the best players and coaches of the last year?
I may be a bit biased but, for me, Cristiano Ronaldo has been the best player in the last year thanks to the goals he’s scoring for Real Madrid and the records he’s breaking, so he’d be my choice in terms of player. For coach, it’s always the usual suspects, though you can’t knock what Roberto Di Matteo did last year, but I’d go as far to say Jurgen Klopp for how he’s brought up Borussia Dortmund and what he’s achieving there. Obviously [Roberto] Mancini and [Jose] Mourinho have done well, but I’d go with Klopp as he’s taken a club with a limited budget who are now becoming a force in Europe and are one of my favourites to win the Champions League this season.
Olly's new album 'Right Place, Right Time' is on sale now