Inside the world premiere of 'Sir Alex: Never Give In'
It was pouring down with rain as I arrived at Old Trafford, wet through and flustered from my short walk to the stadium. I offered my name at the door, received my ticket and moved through the entrance as instructed, to find Sir Alex Ferguson standing directly in front of me.
I was lucky to work at United for Sir Alex’s final three seasons and spent plenty of time around him, at various press conferences and matches, and you never get used to seeing him. But the boss has a knack of putting people at ease and the sight of him speaking to the media, looking happy and extremely healthy, relaxed me and I walked on feeling even more excited to see the film.
There was a strong first-team presence in the front rows, with Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and others keen to soak up the story. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Mike Phelan, Darren Fletcher, Kieran McKenna and more members of staff were also in attendance, as well as the Fergusons themselves.
This was clearly a proud night for the family and particularly because the documentary is directed by Sir Alex’s son Jason. To describe that decision as shrewd is unjust, as their relationship extracts a level of honesty and introspection that nobody else could have gained. It’s a genuine masterstroke, because this is not a film about football. This is a film about life and a man’s desire to succeed.
Right from the first scene, it’s searingly honest as Sir Alex recounts his 2018 brain haemorrhage in frightening detail and the candid nature continues throughout, offering an incredible insight into a man who has so rarely provided a glimpse of his private life. We all know him as the greatest manager in football history, but here we get to understand the son, brother, husband and father.
Then there’s a moment of hilarity when Sir Alex describes how to deal with schoolyard bullies, raw emotion while recalling a fallout with his father and anger as he explains the truth behind his departure from Rangers as a player.
We also get to see a young Ferguson leading an apprentice strike in Govan, in a brief flicker of archive footage that should bring the researcher an award, as well as an admission that he almost moved to Canada to start afresh.
The love Sir Alex has for Lady Cathy is absolutely evident in the first third of the film, too, and his appreciation for her role in his success is clear. It was a privilege to see them both watching the film together, side by side, arm in arm.
The Aberdeen years are magical and Gordon Strachan’s memories of the culture are invaluable - describing a young Ferguson as “a wounded animal” and saying “he brought the devil out in me!” – while former assistant Archie Knox offers an amusing insight into a “bad cop, bad cop” relationship.
Archive footage of the Dons training in a park and on the beach also highlight the 'glamour' of Scottish football in the late 1970s, and a time when Alex Ferguson was a young man with a head full of dreams.
Then come the United years and there are too many highlights from the film to mention - and nobody likes spoilers - but one that stands out to me is a section on the 1990 FA Cup final and the tough decision to drop an out-of-sorts Jim Leighton for the replay. It’s truly moving yet uncompromising at the same time, dealing with the pain of dropping an ally while underlining Sir Alex's unrivalled desire to win.
As the documentary reaches its climax with a focus on the 1999 Champions League final, featuring rare footage of Sir Alex on the touchline throughout those agonising minutes of added time, the theme of resilience and never giving in ramps up.
Admiration.— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) May 21, 2021
Special night at Sir Alex Ferguson premiere, a fascinating watch. 🤩 pic.twitter.com/qjoRZJU3cJ
It was an emotional and inspiring watch that left me close to tears at times, and I nearly cheered loudly into the dark Old Trafford sky as the credits began to roll.
Sir Alex has a unique way of making you feel euphoric, ready to run through walls to take on the world, and I couldn't help but wonder how the watching players felt, with a European final in Poland just days away.
Once I'd regained my composure, I joined the standing ovation to loudly applaud a man who is a lesson for everybody to follow.
No matter how hard life gets, you must stay positive.
No matter how great the challenge, you must continue the fight.
Above all, you must never give in.
An honour to be invited to the Sir Alex Ferguson premiere, a special man and a great watch 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/lDRJ9QgvFm— Brandon Williams (@branwilliams) May 21, 2021