‘I had to lift players’ expectations. They should never give in…’
This was a tough watch for me. While I love nothing more than a ’90s football documentary, I hate Manchester United Football Club with the intensity of a thousand sons. That hatred is rooted in the Sir Alex Ferguson era, and I couldn’t stand the man at the time. In the intervening years, I have developed a grudging respect for Ferguson, mainly after becoming more accustomed to his belief in socialism and his working-class upbringing. Never Give In, directed by Ferguson’s son Jason, attempts to examine the man without ever pushing too much or too far…
Starting with Ferguson’s humble upbringing in Glasgow, and taking in his playing career, his early successes with Aberdeen and culminating in the luckiest treble win in the history of football, Never Give In combines these successes with a chronicle of the Scotsman’s health troubles in 2018.
When the subject of your documentary is your own father, an element of hagiography is going to be inevitable, but this really is a puff piece. Ferguson’s early troubles as United manager are glossed over, as is throwing away the title on the last day of the season against West Ham and Eric Cantona’s assault of a supporter. This last omission is particularly curious as there is a long section detailing Cantona’s influence on United (this segment also neglects to mention that Cantona was signed from Leeds United, instead offering the impression that Ferguson himself plucked Cantona from obscurity which simply isn’t true).
Never Give In is nicely put together, and such an astonishing story could never be anything other than compelling, but the result is too gushing to really push this football documentary into the upper echelons of the genre. A missed opportunity.