Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In
"The richness of all this is something that will intrigue viewers with an interest in the history of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Manchester as cities, as well as appealing to football fans." | Photo: Mirrorpix

Few figures in footballing history have attained the kind of legendary status enjoyed by Alex Ferguson. His 26 years at the helm of Manchester United saw them transformed into one of the most successful teams in Europe and he also had a lot to be proud of as a player. Made by his son Jason, this documentary is fairly routine in structure and doesn't hide its bias but has unmatched access to its subject, packs in a great deal of material and is bound to please the fans.

The story here begins in the early Sixties, when Alex was an apprentice toolmaker (and shop steward) who played part time for Queen's Park and St Johnstone. He got his big break when signed by Dunfermline and was then acquired by Glasgow Rangers for a previously unheard-of sum, but although he made history by scoring the first ever hat trick at Ibrox, the film suggests that he was always unhappy there, disliked by fellow players and management alike because he was married to a Catholic (Cathy, who also shares her thoughts here and who he seems to have just as strong a bond with more than five decades later). At any rate, he was happy enough to leave and, a decade later, as manager of Aberdeen, to build up that team to the point where could get his revenge and deny Rangers the Scottish Cup.

Of course, it's his time in Manchester that most people rushing to see this film will be interested in learning about. He was never one to mince words and his description of the club's state when he got there is no flattering. There's a good bit of detail about how he approached transforming it, and his managerial style is carefully explained, taking into account the way he adjusted it to manage different players (including the famously fiery Eric Cantona) and situations. Though it's less directly addressed. it's clear that his understanding of working class culture and of the challenges facing young men in wider society gave him a big advantage in this work, and was something that neither time not financial success took away from him.

The film was made shortly after Alex suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2018 and there's a sense that, for him, his participation was about striving to preserve the wealth of memories which might otherwise be lost to further brain injury or death. This prompts him to be remarkably candid. Though he explains that he lost his memory of the days around the stroke itself, something which had a profound psychological effect on him, his memory of his past is clear. He's aware that this is in itself a historical record of some importance and he wants to share it.

The richness of all this is something that will intrigue viewers with an interest in the history of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Manchester as cities, as well as appealing to football fans. There's nothing defensive about Alex's approach, no attempt to keep techniques secret or cultivate an air of mystery about himself. He makes his passions clear as always and gives no indication that he feels a need to be liked, though it's clear that respect and fairness are important to him. With this in mind, he speaks about how unfair he feels he sometimes was in his expectations of Cathy, and how grateful he is for the way she raised their sons.

A must for Man U supporters, this is also a strong character study which speaks well of Jason, who has done no previous film work. It's full of lively anecdotes, with a strong vein of humour. Jason has done his father proud.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2021
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A look at the life and legend of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Director: Jason Ferguson

Writer: Mark Monroe

Starring: Alex Ferguson, Jason Ferguson, Eric Cantona

Year: 2021

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2021

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