Football is intrinsically cinematic. The elation when the ball hits the back of the net, the despair when it doesn’t. The personalities, the transfer story-lines and the hold it has on so many people’s hearts. Documentary makers Benjamin and Gabe Turner play heavily on this notion, as their latest feature The Class of 92, dramatises and illuminates the sport – as we delve into the group of young boys who followed their childhood dreams and became Manchester United legends. You may be concerned that unless you’re a United fan you’ll feel alienated by this picture, but instead we explore a team camaraderie and get inside the politics of football, allowing enough in here for any fan of football to appreciate and enjoy. Yes Liverpool fans, even you.
Covering the years between 1992-1999, we witness the rise to prominence for an immensely talented group of young footballers, consisting of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville. All starting off at the same time and coming through the youth academy together, they each became a staple part of a Manchester United side – led by Alex Ferguson – that eventually went on to make history and win the treble, culminating in one of the most incredible nights in football history, when these players performed admirably to win the Champions League in the dying seconds against Bayern Munich.
The Class of 92 is about something greater than football though, it portrays an optimistic time in Britain, with New Labour coming in to Government and, as Danny Boyle says in the film, there was a ‘tidal wave of culture’ – and this group of players were at the very heart of that, particularly Beckham. This inspiring tale of a bunch of kids becoming superstars plays on that hope of a nation on the up, one that was freeing itself from Thatcher’s enforced individualism, and this team spirit at Manchester United ignites that notion. This wasn’t just a memorable time in football, but a memorable time in modern British culture, and Manchester was the place to be, almost like a movement, with the music, and the likes of The Stone Roses and Oasis – whose songs fittingly make up most of this film’s soundtrack.
These players have so much appeal to a certain generation of football fans. Anyone under 30 will struggle to remember what football is actually like without Ryan Giggs being a part of it, and, for many, these players are all we’ve ever known. It feels like the perfect time for this documentary to come out too, what with Ferguson retiring at the end of last season, and the players slowly hanging up their boots one by one. There is something very emotional about this documentary also, not only because these players represent a culture in football that simply doesn’t exist anymore, but seeing them all go back to Old Trafford and relive the past through discussions about their favourite memories is one full of nostalgia, which is a prevalent theme in this feature.
Benjamin and Gabe Turner were allowed incredible access too, with talking heads ranging from the like of Mani of The Stone Roses, to Zinedine Zidane to Tony Blair. The six players featured are all so natural and charismatic in front of the camera too, as years of media attention seems to have certainly paid off, breeding honest, open discussions. It’s not all glorification though, as although they reflect on their favourite moments and what it means to win trophies, they also scrutinise over the games they were left out of, and the red cards, and defeats. The filmmakers may be romanticising these players, yet it humanises these icons too, striking a perfect middle ground.
It’s structure, though somewhat all over the place, eventually takes some chronological order, as we end the film in the 98/99 season, during 10 incredible days, building up masterfully towards those final three minutes at the Nou Camp. This film deserves to be seen in the cinema as a result, because as Eric Cantona says himself, “it’s the perfect script”.
The Class Of ’92 is out in selected cinemas on the 1st of December and DVD on the 2nd December.