"It's funny isn't it... sometimes we forget that you're just a man".

These are the words spoken by Steve Evets' down-to-earth postman to the Manchester United legend in Ken Loach's brilliant film Looking For Eric.

It crystallises how the enigmatic Frenchman is viewed by the Old Trafford faithful: he has transcended being described as a mere ‘great footballer’ and is instead something much more – some kind of metaphysical apparition straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel.

But it is a mystifying reputation that has been well-earned.

In a moment of glory following his stunning chip against Sunderland in 1996, instead of racing off to wildly celebrate like anyone else would, he instead pauses. He digests the moment, and thoughtfully observes the adoring masses. His adoring masses.

In a moment of rage on the pitch, he kung-fu kicks a member of the crowd.

In the moment when the media gather to question him on his most infamous of acts, he waxes lyrical about “seagulls” and “trawlers”, interrogating the nature of his own celebrity to a bunch of hungover tabloid journalists who have probably not got round to reading Carl Jung or Friedrich Nietzsche just yet – then walks off.

In the moment where he was at the peak of his footballing powers, he packs it all in and decides to start acting in some (pretty bad) films instead.

And, just in the moment when he appears to have settled down a bit and started enjoying his retirement, he launches a singing career. Yes, I know. Even by his standards, this is… interesting.

Manchester United have many great heroes... but few remain as adored as Eric Cantona

As he released his EP, entitled I’ll Make My Own Heaven, his legion of admirers may have raised an eyebrow upon learning that this wasn’t all a joke, or some kind of performance art. But they still got their wallets out.

Tickets for Cantona's performances sold out in 12 minutes. He remains utterly adored no matter what he does. We forget that he’s “just a man”.

The crowd that gathers at Manchester's quite lovely Stoller Hall on Friday night largely falls into two camps. Firstly, there is the quite small but more distinctive crowd of serious, 'artsy' types who have the appearance and demeanour of tremendously intense extras on a David Lynch film.

As we enter Stoller Hall, we can't quite believe that this is actually happening

And then there is the larger group of (mostly) blokey-blokes in their 40s and 50s for whom Cantona would have been gracing the Old Trafford pitch during their formative years.

The second camp gets their first of many shocks this evening on being told that alcohol cannot be brought into the performance. "You what?", the bar staff hear several times before the audience are invited to take their seats.

And then there is silence. The lights go down and a nervous hush washes over the 400-odd seater venue as we realise that yes, this isn't just a strange dream after tackling a late-night cheese board. This is really happening.

His pianist and cellist take to the stage first, the latter making remarkable use of a loop pedal to build atmosphere ahead of The King's arrival.

As Cantona emerges, he makes a Christ-like pose. There's rapture. A member of the crowd breaks from their seat and out-races security to go and shake the hand of the man himself. Despite being in 'the zone', Cantona stops, gives them a nod as if to say "thank you for coming" and keenly shakes their hand before staff members looking quite cross and nervous escort the punter away.

Eric Cantona was spotted dining at San Carlo before the gig

The opening songs see people sat only a few feet away from Cantona openly giggling. Others close their eyes and nod back and forth, as if to project to the rest of us: "Look at me, I get it". I can't work out which is worse: being that rude, or being that pretentious.

If there were any detractors in the crowd, the man himself doesn't seem bothered. His lyrics at one point in the evening state: "You hate me, you love me. I'm only judged by myself."

But let's get the main question out of the way: Can Eric Cantona sing? No, he absolutely cannot sing. But can he perform? Oh yes. Absolutely yes.

It's clear that he is taking this all very seriously, but there are occasional suggestions that make you think he is in on the joke and this is all part of some very-knowing performance art.

As the first wave of songs - which are largely spoken word poetry to the backdrop of some very moody music that feels like it's out of Twin Peaks - are over, he takes off his coat and unbuttons his shirt, revealing a lot of chest hair. Women (and a fair few men) express their delight. He's still got it.

Sometimes, we forget he's just a man

Later in the evening, Cantona recites a poem about a relationship coming to an end. The woman sat in front of us who had been laughing during the opening songs seemed now to be emotionally moved by it all. He's winning some naysayers over.

Cantona strikes some Elvis-like poses during performances of songs about the horror of war (and love?), and he refuses to break the fourth wall. No one else could get away with this kind of theatricality without being laughed out of town. The audience largely remain earnest throughout, with only a few members of the 'lads lads lads' section of the crowd shouting "G'wan Eric!" in-between songs.

It is all a bit objectively bizarre, though - and at times, rubbish. But as every song concludes we all clap and cheer as loud as we can: we just want him to know how much he is loved.

And it is undeniably a very self-aware performance. In one moment, you find yourself thinking "this is crap" and then moments later you're thinking: "Oh this is actually a satire on the nature of art, celebrity and performance - and it's actually genius and probably the best thing I'll ever see". Maybe it's a little from Column A, and a little from Column B.

Cantona eventually does break the fourth wall, however. In his final song, he reflects on his footballing career - there are references to seagulls, and to David Beckham - both are greeted with joyous cheers.

Happier times for Manchester United

Then, it's over. We've all behaved throughout the night and taken it very seriously but now we take to our feet as Cantona waves goodbye and sing the chants that we still sing every week in the stands at Old Trafford. Cantona stops, and decides to not leave the stage but instead he drinks it all in for several minutes. It's an incredible moment.

My brother joins me for the night. He once passed a stray ball back to Cantona in the 90s when our dad took us to watch the Manchester United team train at The Cliff via a hole in the fence. He's spent the rest of his life telling people that story.

As we leave, comparing notes on what we've just witnessed, he sums it all up: "That was weird. But I'd very happily sit there for three hours just watching him peel potatoes."

And that would sell out in 12 minutes too.

Eric Cantona: Cantona Sings Eric is now on tour and tickets are available here.