On Sunday (April 24) United, the BBC2 drama depicting the 1958 Munich plane crash that killed eight Manchester United soccer players, will air in the UK at 9 pm BST. In the telefilm, ex-Time Lord David Tennant portrays ManU coach Jimmy Murphy, who trained the talented “Busby Boys” with manager Matt Busby (played by Dougray Scott). While Tennant says he was somewhat familiar with the story, it was the tragedy’s inspiring aftermath that drew him to the part.
“I knew that it was a historical event but I didn’t know many of the details. I’m not a huge football aficionado,” Tennant explained to BBC Breakfast. “But I got sent the script and I was just so bowled over by this extraordinary tale…not just what happened on the airfield and the terrible tragedy but then what happened afterwards and how this team rebuilt itself.”
Tennant also gave a glimpse into what Murphy was like, describing him as someone who “didn’t like the spotlight.” But after Busby was severely injured in the crash, Murphy briefly served as Manchester United’s manager.
“He was thrust into this de facto manager position, which is something he didn’t want to do,” Tennant said. “He liked hiding behind Matt Busby’s public face and he just liked training the boys and finding the new players…and suddenly Matt Busby’s at death’s door and it’s left to Jimmy to sort of single-handedly make sure that Manchester United carry on.”
British actor Jack O’Connell plays Bobby Charlton, one of the ManU players who survived the Munich plane disaster. The 20-year-old Skins star explained to Digital Spy that he was quite thrilled play the decorated football legend.
“My granddad was in the [football] industry,” O’Connell said. “He educated me on Bobby Charlton ever since I was a kid, so to get that opportunity to play the man himself was amazing. I could talk for days and days about how much of a privilege it was, and how much it meant to me.”
He added: “I don’t know how people will react to it. When Bobby Charlton himself, or the people who surround him, or the people who knew that era, tell me that it was believable, then that’s when I’ll feel like I’ve proven myself.”