“That’s what football is all about.”
A line uttered during the Class of 92, a film made about the six young kids from the Manchester United youth academy who went on to be immortalised after winning the treble, going down in the history of not only Manchester United Football Club, but the beautiful game itself too.
The film itself is fantastic and gives an intimate look at not only the legend’s lives, but is so telling about the regime Sir Alex Ferguson instilled at Old Trafford.
In this day and age, footballers are more accessible than ever through social media such as twitter, but in another sense, less reachable, touchable and connectable.
The Class of 92 provides an insight not seen in the modern game, where players are protected through media advisors and press officers, and often produce press conferences as predictable as a Cristiano Ronaldo goal.
About as far removed from the cringe worthy documentary produced to allow us an insight into Liverpool FC, the film is not only funny and a trip down memory lane, but also makes it nearly impossible not to get caught up in the nostalgia and wonder if we will ever see a group of players like it again.
Eric Cantona noted that it was not ‘realistic’ to think that after the defeat to Aston Villa at the start of the 1995/96 season and several high profile departures that the club could win trophies that season when the players coming in were former academy players who were so young. Then again, football is often on another planet, and the impossible becomes possible.
David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phillip Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes are who the film is about and none disappoint.
There is an intimate profile of each of the players and a genuine camaraderie between the six. Often the players question if we will ever see anything like it again, six home grown players, all of whom love the club and play for the badge, coming through the youth system and not only playing together but achieving the level of success they did.
Alex Ferguson wanted the youth system at the club improved and boy did he get it. The six players lifted every trophy possible during their collective time at the club and changed the way Manchester United were seen across Europe. They became giants of the game – and have been for decades afterwards.
The film of course looks at this – and the players talk about the belief they had during the treble winning season. Gary Neville notes that he had to believe during the Champions League final game at the Camp Nou, and that once they got the one, he knew.
Paul Scholes notes that the FA Cup final and scoring the winning goal was the moment for him, and that there has never been another club on his radar.
The contribution that Nicky Butt made to the game against Bayern Munich is something all the players note, and both David Beckham and Phil Neville note how protected they were by the club and staff when things went wrong for them internationally.
It is that which is one of the most understated but telling things about the whole film. The bond and trust between the players and their manager is something that has gone such a long way to aiding the success of the club it is hard to believe.
Bullets through the front door, media and fan abuse – it has all been seen, but if you are a Manchester United player, it does not matter. The club will protect you and Fergie makes sure of it.
The fact that Becks had one of the best seasons of his career after the sending off against Argentina speaks volumes. Fergie called him, told him to forget it and made sure the midfielder knew he had the full backing of the club.
The manager’s ability to drop players but keep them feeling wanted is also explored. Giggs makes a quip about avoiding Fergie and not opening the door to him – ‘if he can’t find you, he can’t drop you,’ but jokes aside the players speak about the gaffer with such affection and love it is easy to see why the Scot had such success.
It is not all heavy emotion or clips of match winning moments however. There are some brilliant snippets from the players who talk about their time in the YTS and the bond between them is so evident – anyone who thinks otherwise only needs to see the way the other five boys talk about Nicky Butt and his prank against Peter Schmeichel. Not to spoiler the film, but the words hot kettle and an unfortunate connection with a certain part of the anatomy are mentioned.
From Phil Neville recalling ‘the best step over Old Trafford had ever seen’ to Scholes talking about his urge to copy Ryan Giggs’ shirt removing celebration after scoring against Arsenal, there is humour and plenty of it.
The film is heart-warming and even for those who may not particularly love the game, the time at which the six players came through the club and the simultaneous change in culture in the country makes it a must see.
For all those football fans out there, it is certainly a good watch, but it is the Manchester United fans amongst us who will love it most of all.
The reluctance of Paul Scholes to join in the celebrations at the Camp Nou is also a telling moment, and speaks volumes about the player who did the total opposite of John Terry, but affected the run to the final and result so much more.
A trip down memory lane and the chance to really see the human side of their heroes is not to be missed. After all, who said you can’t win anything with kids?
Thanks To Rebecca, editor of our sister site La Footyettes, for getting down to the premier and providing us with this great review