As a Manchester United fan myself who watches nothing other than football films or documentaries where I can, I’ll safely say that there are some truly brilliant pieces of filmmaking that need to be watched by every supporter around the world.
In this article for Hobby FC, we will be walking you through three of the best films available right now on different streaming platforms, which make for perfect evening viewing.
DISCLAIMER: The streaming platforms mentioned below relate to UK customers, and fans based in other areas of the world may have to rely on alternative providers.
Are you a ‘true’ Manchester United fan?
I felt the need to write about this now, because the world of football fandom has changed drastically in recent years – where there’s even dispersals within the same fan bases.
Apparently, the distinction between being ‘true’ or ‘plastic’ fans is a comprehension of the history of your football club and to be honest, I understand and agree with that.
Especially when you see the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City rising from the depths and claiming their ‘bigger’ institutions than Manchester United or Arsenal, it’s important that you learn as much as you can about this club to put them in their place.
These films will help you do just that. Beginning with…
Busby (2019) – Sky
There is no Manchester United without Sir Matt Busby.
Despite having played for both Manchester City and Liverpool during his playing career, Sir Matt grasped at the opportunity to supply Manchester United fans all over the world with a small bit of hope that they could reach the heights of their rivals.
Knowing it wouldn’t be an easy task, the documentary film ‘Busby’ does a fantastic job of painting an intimate portrait of the man himself and how that played into formalising the mantras within the club which soon formed its foundation for success.
In a time of part-timers and carpenters being considered a ‘more honourable living’, Sir Matt worked tirelessly behind the scenes to embed the club within the city.
To do this, he leaned heavily on the work of Jimmy Murphy (who now rightfully has a stadium outside Old Trafford) to bring some younger lads in and disrupt the hierarchy ahead of them. You may recognise the result of their endeavours: ‘The Busby Babes’.
There’s a film a little later on which goes into the darkest period of the club’s history, which Sir Matt was unfortunately a part of as well.
But for now, there’s not a single Manchester United fan in the world who should consciously go about their business without knowing the legend that is Sir Matt Busby.
Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In (2021) – Amazon Prime
I’ve seen this title at least seven times, and each time is more enthralling than the last. A truly outstanding piece of British filmmaking.
To tell you the truth, I was a little reticent to watch this documentary the moment it came out. Only because I felt there was enough written and made about United’s success already – particularly that famous night at the Nou Camp in 1999.
Oh, how wrong I was!
Without wanting to spoil anything, the opening minutes of the film sets the tone for the forthcoming ninety. The viewer hears a call from Sir Alex Ferguson’s son on behalf of his father who’d suffered a fall and needed desperate medical attention.
Aspects of Sir Alex’s life, from his disciplined upbringing to his incredible memory is analysed to the third degree, and it’s incredible when you watch to see how vulnerable this usually-resolute figure decides to be. Which probably has something to do with the fact that his own son was in charge of directing the film.
Not only does that break down the barriers between Sir Alex and ‘any other interviewer’, but it lights a fire under the team to make this as perfect as can be.
That one moment comes as we get to that Champions League Final v Bayern Munich.
I, like any Manchester United fan, have seen that match from start to finish more often than I can care to count. But all I remember was the players on the pitch – the Beckham crosses, the Sheringham equaliser, the Solskjaer winner, the Schmeichel cartwheel etc.
But this exquisite shot focuses solely on Sir Alex as the climax takes place, and it moved me to tears. It’s on Amazon Prime. It’s free. Go and watch it. Now. Right now.
UNITED (2011) – Netflix
This is the film that inspired this entire article to be written.
Truth be told, I watched it last night. And I haven’t thought about much else since.
I have this horrible fear of flying – as I mention here, and so I tend to steer clear from anything to do with planes. But having put it off for so long and relying on little other than articles and archival footage to learn about the Munich Air Disaster, it was time to put that all to one side.
Of the three, this is the only dramatisation on the list. It’s not a documentary featuring recounts or interviews with the people involved, but having originally been produced by the BBC, the attention to detail and reliability of the information used is superb.
Naturally, the film begins by featuring the famous ‘Busby Babes’ – an eclectic bunch of young players procured and developed by Jimmy Murphy and Sir Matt Busby. Their early successes are a joy to watch, until the inevitability of the Munich disaster ensues.
The producers here to a magnificent job of keeping things very respectful and delicate for the families, without removing any sense of seriousness and tragedy for the viewer.
But instead of focusing all-too much on the plane crash itself – resulting in 23 casualties (8 of which were United players), the film somehow finds a positive tone. Relaying a beautiful friendship between the living and the passed to drive the club to a new dawn.
From the depths of despair, came a renaissance that nobody could have predicted in such a short space of time, and I can’t express just how wonderful a choice it was to focus on Mr. Murphy and then-prodigy Sir Bobby Charlton to tell the story.
Even today, respect for the Munich Air disaster is observed by Manchester United fans worldwide, but most can be forgiven for not knowing all that much about its details given how long ago that fateful journey has taken.
Netflix has made sure that we don’t have that excuse anymore.
In this world of limitless information and content at our fingertips, it’s easy to become overawed by the sheer volume of crap that we take in on a daily basis.
So, if you can steal yourself away from your phones for about ninety minutes – and I know you can, if you bother watching football matches – then I implore every Manchester United fan who reads this to watch every single one of the films I’ve listed here.
Trust me when I tell you that you will become a more informed and enriched football supporter because of it. And that can only be a good thing.
Oh, and for other non-United-related documentaries to watch – click here.
What movie would you have added to the list?
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