In days of old, the end of a football season would be marked by the release of a round-up DVD or video for the more successful teams. Now, Manchester United Football Club gets a pair of glossy film documentaries instead.
Out this week is The United Way. The selling point here is Eric Cantona’s involvement, the former United star narrating and co-writing the film, which seeks to get to the heart of what’s made Manchester United the club it is today. Given he’s only got 90 minutes to do it, he and director/co-writer Mat Hodgson primarily focus on three eras in the club’s history: the ‘Busby Babes’ of the 50s and 60s, the Tommy Docherty/Ron Atkinson interlude in the late 70s and 80s, and then the introduction of Sir Alex Ferguson, peaking with the 1999 treble win (but not going beyond that to his retirement).
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That treble win is also the fulcrum of another United-related film, Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In that arrives at the end of the month. Ferguson is a notable absentee from The United Way – a film otherwise packed with politicians, musicians and ex-United players – but that’s because he’s given his story in an entirely different production. This one’s directed by his son, Jason, and sees Ferguson addressing the brain haemorrhage that nearly took his life in 2018, and reflecting on his career.
The focus of Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In is the man himself getting his memories down on film, and again, pulling all this into around 90 minutes is a challenge. Jason Ferguson’s film still gets in his playing days, his managerial days at Aberdeen, and his United career pretty much up to 1999. All tailed by Ferguson candidly discussing his brush with death, with input from colleagues and family.
Eric Cantona stares at the screen and gruffs out the story, almost daring you to look away. I was too scared to
Both films inevitably cross over a fair bit. The stretch in the 80s and early 90s when Ferguson was under extreme pressure at Manchester United is common to both, as is the signing of Cantona, the pressure of aiming for the first title in decades in the 1990s (eventually achieved in 1993), and the build-up to the 1999 treble win. But each has different bits to add to the overall story.