In 2018, legendary football manager Sir Alex Ferguson suffered a brain haemorrhage which left him fearing that he would lose his memory. Whilst in recovery, he began telling stories of his past to prove to himself and his family that he could. His son, Jason Ferguson, used this as an opportunity to craft documentary film Never Give In, which charts the illustrious life and times of his father.
Known for his tough attitude and the ‘hairdryer treatment’ that he was said to furiously dish out to players after a bad performance, this film offers deep insight into the man behind the myths. Despite being directed by his son, it isn’t always shot through a rose-tinted lens. Their genuine bond means that Sir Alex has a platform to be totally honest and candid with the filmmaker and this includes regrets over his low points as well as pride in his highs.
Growing up in the mean streets of Govan, it’s a joy to hear him reminisce about his upbringing with a boyish glint in his eye. There are fascinating sections on his interfaith marriage, which at that time in Glasgow was seen to be quite controversial, and his turbulent playing career at Rangers. Mark Monroe’s thoughtful writing takes care not to gloss over his formative period prior to his glorious tenure at Manchester United.
A nice pace and rhythm is created in the storytelling, Ferguson incorporating a mix of talking heads, archive footage, and some notebook scribble visuals to give a streamlined account of events. Though the guests don’t add much in the way of new information, it’s pleasing to hear from the likes of Gordon Strachan and Eric Cantona as they discuss the grit and determination of Ferguson’s unique character.
The narrative builds to an emotional closing chapter which celebrates his greatest achievement from a fresh perspective, and sees him return to his ‘theatre of dreams’ in the wake of his health scare to a rapturous reception from adoring supporters. Touching upon the leadership qualities that he gained so much acclaim and respect for throughout his career, Sir Alex himself says ‘psychology is someone else’s word, I call it management’. This is a perfect embodiment to his down-to-earth mentality, and Jason Ferguson delivers a compelling portrait of his grounded nature.