The United Way
No matter how good The United Way is, this perhaps isn’t the best time for a film about Manchester United to be released. Considering the still-warm scandal of the European Super League (ESL), the documentary is bound to be overshadowed by the tensions surrounding this now-cancelled breakaway competition. Which is a shame, because this movie has the potential to be excellent.
It’s presentation is certainly slick enough: deftly captained by acclaimed documentarian Mat Hodgson (I Am Durán), the flick knows how to pluck at the heartstrings. Intimate confessional-style interviews, pride-inducing archival footage and an original score by four-time Academy-nominated composer George Fenton (Gandhi, Dangerous Liaisons), Hodgson weaves the highs and lows of The Red Devils into an underdog tale of perseverance; which is impressive considering he’s a die-hard supporter of Sheffield Wednesday.
Nevertheless, narrated and co-written by Eric “The King” Cantona, the documentary is littered with some of Man U’s biggest players and supporters. David Beckham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs, Bryan Robson, Ron Atkinson, even Joy Division; the film is veritable “who’s who” of Old Trafford super fans. Equally, The United Way isn’t afraid to lean into the political history of the club, featuring interviews with Lord Kinnock and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham. Indeed, Hodgson seems to find his groove when he frames the team as “belonging” to the people: a club made by the fans, through the fans, for the fans. “This is our story,” asserts Cantona as the work opens; it really is quite moving.
Which just adds to the sense of whiplash caused by reality. The feature’s decries of “we’re all workers” and “United has always been a family” feel glib and hollow after the fiasco of the ESL; for all these football legends eloquently effusing the local importance of the club, fans won’t soon forget that Ed Woodward and the Glazers were ready to throw tradition and legacy under the bus in order bloat up their back ends.
Perhaps the movie then serves as something of a flashpoint: a reminder that this is a pivotal time for the beloved club. A reminder to the owners of the importance of the legacy they’re tarnishing. And a reminder to the stalwart supporters of what the club once meant – and what it can continue to mean – as long as they are united in the face of adversity, both from the outside and from the top.
The United Way is released on 10th May 2021 on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download and launching on Sky Documentaries and streaming service NOW on 24th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for The United Way here: