Football documentaries can often descend into tired clichés and platitudes. Not so Class of 92, the story of Man Utd’s treble winning kids.
Class Of ’92: A Classic Football Movie For Everyone (Not Just Man United Fans)
What’s the most boring part of Match Of The Day? Next to the analysis, it’s the interviews. It’s the players, reeling off clichés, each more scripted than the last. These kids, media trained to within an inch of their lives, elicit absolutely no emotion. I wish they’d eliminate that section altogether. Who cares.
So, with that in mind, I was curious to see why any director would want 6 footballers to lead a documentary about themselves, and about their team, no matter how remarkable their story was – and indeed, the story of Manchester United’s Class of 92 – Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Giggs and the Nevilles – and how they ended up winning the treble in 1999, is pretty remarkable.
What’s apparent from the off is that, in a relaxed atmosphere, these players open up. Ryan Giggs displays a sense of humour never before seen, David Beckham is way more candid, Paul Scholes comes across as you’d expect as extremely humble, at one point in the film describing the feeling of celebrating the Champion’s League win having not played in the final as “embarrassing” – take note, John Terry.
Though these six are the focus and lead much of the narration, the film begins with an overview of the whole class, the majority of whom didn’t make the cut at the top level. Unfortunately this means Robbie Savage gets some screen time, but it’s all over pretty soon. From this, and from the testimony of youth team coach Eric Harrison, the film really drills into you how it was these players’ attitudes, as well as their talent, that really set them apart.
Despite the longevity of their careers, and the time some of them spent at other clubs, it is that seven year period that forms the film’s arc, focussing not just on that night at the Nou Camp, but on the other big moments of that final season – the 4th round FA cup tie against Liverpool won at the death, the last game of the season against Spurs, Giggs’ goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi (particularly galling to watch as a Gunner).
Across all these matches it’s great to see the games from different perspectives – we take it for granted that we always see football from the same angles, but there’s a huge variety of shots gone into the edit here that really freshen up some iconic moments, none moreso than Giggs’ jinking run – looking straight down the back of him you really get the sense of the fluidity of his movement, and how difficult it must have been for Dixon and Keown to defend against him on leaden legs.
All good documentaries should take a subject and not look at it in isolation, instead view it as part of a wider context. We as football fans know this story, but perhaps we’ve never quite contextualised it properly, so swept up were we in season after season of United dominance. This is the film’s greatest strength. Hearing from Danny Boyle, Eric Cantona, Tony Blair and Mani from The Stone Roses gives the narrative a richness and texture that would have been otherwise absent. United’s success is framed as part of an era of opportunity and unbridled ambition. Boyle’s comments that Manchester had to create success for itself having been ignored under the previous Tory Government are particularly on point.
I would implore you, regardless of which team you support, to watch this film. This story could have easily descended into blithe deification of the players, its great success is in showing how their story was part of a whirlwind of activity and change, in football culture and in society as a whole. United fans will love reliving a glorious era, but football fans will appreciate a filmmaker treating the game they love with respect and with admiration for the enormity of its role in society.
The Class Of ’92 is out in selected cinemas on the 1st December and on DVD on the 2nd December.
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