The United Way is essential viewing for any football fan

20 November 2021

The United Way is essential viewing for any football fan

The United Way documentary is now streaming on Showmax. It’s a must-watch experience for any football fan that takes you through all the events that grew the club while growing your understanding of what “the United way” is.

From players to old chairmen and backroom staff, the film is filled with voices where the passion from all those that had a hand in the club’s history is palpable.

If you’re a staunch Red Devils supporter, an ardent rival or even just an interested neutral, you have to admit that the tapestry of Manchester United’s history is built from foundations of great romance and charm.

The moulding of the Busby Babes in the 50s. Recovering from their deaths in the Munich Air disaster to eventually become champions of Europe in the 60s. Sir Alex Ferguson emulating Sir Matt Busby by moulding his own team from home-bred youngsters in the 90s. So many last-minute winners. Thrilling attacking football. You name it, Manchester United have brought it.

The main voice throughout the film is that of Eric Cantona, and there is no player that signifies the success and global growth of the club more than the Frenchman.

As the first foreign superstar who came to the club in the first season of the Premier League era, Cantona himself, as the film makes clear, built so much of the modern United blueprint.

He was the catalyst that ended their 26-year league title drought, the performer that totally embraced the Theatre of Dreams as his stage, the pioneer that opened the doors for international talent to join and the maverick personality that brought out the very best in Ferguson’s man-management.

From there, the all-permeating essence of Ferguson’s sheer desire to build a Manchester United dynasty is carried through from Cantona and to all other members of the club in the most successful era the Premier League has witnessed.

Thirteen Premier League titles and two Champions League titles later, Ferguson is the all-bearing shadow of the glory days that the current Manchester United manager has to live up to.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself appears in the documentary as a playing legend who speaks about his experience of the club where he entrenched himself in their mythology with his treble-securing winner in 1999.

Solskjaer doesn’t speak of any of his managerial experience, which in a way makes his appearance seem like a kind of Ghost of Christmas Future, as most of the club’s current problems are weights on his shoulders.

The charm of “the United way” was clearly taken into consideration when appointing the Norwegian in the first place as a beacon of continuity that stressed the importance of romantic sentiment the club has been built on. A beautiful theory, but the results are a stark contrast to his playing days.

Magical Champions League nights for United used to be when he scored late winners against Europe’s best to win the trophy. Nowadays, magical Champions League nights involve late winners against the 12th best team in Spain or late equalisers against the fourth best team in Italy.

After watching The United Way, it’s fascinating to compare all the club’s past glories with its comparative mediocrity of late. How many of these old philosophies still apply? Which ones need to be reworked or ditched in the modern game?

A more cynical question would be how much effort has been made by the Glazer family as owners to bring successful football that’s along the lines of the club’s history? How much more effort have they made to just tap into it in order to reap the rewards commercially?

Along with all the classic United traditions around success, attacking football and youth, the one quality that also shines through its history is how the club goes about rebuilding itself from moments of adversity or periods without success.

More glory days will come to Manchester United eventually. The club is too big for them not to come right again one day. Whenever that rebuild comes, it should serve to be another glorious chapter to The United Way.

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