SIR ALEX FERGUSON: NEVER GIVE IN | FILM REVIEW
Dir: Jason Ferguson (12A, 109 mins)
This new documentary about British football’s most decorated manager is bookended by two very different references to its subject. The second, coming at Ferguson’s first trip to Old Trafford after suffering a brain haemorrhage in May 2018, is a familiar one. “Sir Alex Ferguson!” bellows the stadium announcer as the place erupts into rapturous applause.
The first is less so. As an ambulance speeds along country roads, we hear the 999 call made that day by Ferguson’s son, Jason. “What’s his name, please?” the call handler asks. There is a notable pause. “Alexander Ferguson.”
It’s this duality that lies at the heart of the film: a two-pronged structure that sees the 79-year-old reflect pensively on his personal life while recounting his footballing journey from the streets of Glasgow to that famous night in Barcelona in 1999 when his Manchester United side claimed a historic treble. Directed by Jason himself, this is a captivating, intimate examination of his father’s legacy: a ruminative look not simply at how one became the other, how Alexander became Sir Alex, but more intriguingly, how one was formed by the other – how Ferguson the man influenced Ferguson the manager.
This is perhaps the most open the Scot has ever been on screen. With the same fierce candour and dry wit that defined his 26 years at United, he speaks frankly of his family: from his turbulent relationship with his father to friction caused by his wife’s Catholicism during his time playing for Rangers. Later, he talks of his success at Aberdeen, his rocky first few years in Manchester and the bonds formed with players like Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona.
It’s no coincidence that everything about the film is tied to memory: the thing Ferguson admits he was most frightened of losing before undergoing surgery. Throughout, he asserts that it’s one’s connection to the past – where one comes from and what one endures – that ultimately shapes identity. In a sense, this is Ferguson committing his own story to collective memory. And, as the film dutifully reminds us, it is some story.
Out now via Amazon Prime
words GEORGE NASH images © UEFA / MIRRORPIX