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Friday, June 14, 2024

Man United ’99 doc is the perfect antidote to team’s current malaise

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Perhaps a serving of nostalgia – three hours of it to be precise – comes at a good time for Manchester United.’99, a new three-part documentary film charting the Treble-winning season of 1998-99, airs globally on Friday on Amazon Prime video.And at a time where watching Manchester United on the pitch has largely brought fans bucketloads of frustration and angst as they head into the final league game against Brighton on Sunday running the risk of missing out on Europe entirely, ’99 provides something akin to a warm hug. This a tale that has been told plenty over the past 25 years and yet this three-part film even surprised the players involved.It was telling that goalkeeper Peter Schmiechel’s greatest takeaway after watching at the premiere last week was that he had no idea of the internal struggle many of his team-mates were dealing with en route to the Treble win. Manchester United’s treble-winning 1998-99 season has been charted in a new documentary David Beckham is among a number of players from that time that feature in the three-part film Gary Neville helps paint the picture of how Man United’s treble could easily have fallen apart ‘I learned a lot,’ he said.He won’t be alone in that, either.Testimonies from Ryan Giggs, Sir Alex Ferguson, Schmeichel, Andy Cole, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and more – although notably not a word from Roy Keane – helps provide fascinating insight into the mental fragility that came with that three-trophy haul across 10 days.Giggs wondered during the European Cup final if he’d ever play for Manchester United again. Similarly, Phil Neville was convinced his days at Manchester United ended when he gave away a stoppage time penalty in the FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal.Racing back to the start of the season and viewers discover how even Ferguson had his doubts, offering his resignation following defeat in the Community Shield, only to retract it that same afternoon.Gary Neville, told on camera about his manager’s resignation at the time, was stunned. He, like many watching, had no idea. There is some great archive footage, including Sir Alex Ferguson at the Cliff training ground Andy Cole’s story arc is fascinatingly told and is likely to be well received by United fansWhat the three-part series does do is serve as a reminder of the standards Manchester United used to demand and never settle for less than. Many within the current group would be wise to give it a watch.Produced by the same company that made Beckham’s Netflix documentary, ’99 charts not only the success of the side but also the difficulty of their route to doing so so well.’I think that people probably forget about how great the Arsenal team was that we were up against,’ Gary Neville has since explained.’They won the double the year before. They were the team. We were chasing them that season.’The other thing was that Juventus, who we beat in the semi, were the masters. They’d given us a lesson – they’d taken us to school for three, four years. So the idea that we had these two teams in these cup semi-finals, and then with Arsenal in the title race… ‘I think we were up against the most difficult domestic and European teams that I ever played against, in both that Juventus team and that Arsenal team.  It helps set the scene of how it was Arsenal that were the dominant force in England that yearPeter Schmeichel (left) and Teddy Sheringham (right) both felt they learned new things about their former team-mates since watching 99, which airs on Amazon Prime from May 17’That sticks in my mind – the two teams that we had to overcome that season were great, great sides.’Driven on by youth – much as they are right now with the breakouts of Alejandro Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo, Amad Diallo and Rasmus Hojlund – the hope is that United can again see a young core drive the group to success.Twenty five years ago it was 10 days to end the season with three trophies on the line. This time round it’s 10 days to try and win an FA Cup and get into Europe. Times, for now at least, have changed at Old Trafford.Perhaps a bit of nostalgia of what once was is the perfect antidote.’99 is available exclusively on Prime Video on May 17, when all three parts will drop globally

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