“I’m not sure it will happen again,” says Gary Neville, as he reflects on the rarity of a close-knit group of immensely talented young footballers – nay, friends – rising through the ranks of a club they love and achieving greatness together, as one. It’s a typically thoughtful observation to bookend a splendid 99 minutes of nostalgia, charting the remarkable rise and outstanding success of Manchester United’s class of ’92.
But this isn’t some misty-eyed club shop rehash of a golden era in United’s grand history. No, this documentary has genuine warmth and is perfectly centred around the bond between six young lads (David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Phil and Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes) who each found global fame amid the youthful optimism of a vibrant 90s ‘Madchester’.
With a smattering of Oasis, a dash of The Charlatans and a healthy dose of the Stone Roses – whose bassist ‘Mani’ features as a talking head throughout – Class of 92 weaves its way through the most important matches of United’s treble-winning season, via tributes to each of the six outstanding players upon whom the spotlight shines.
To the credit of directors Ben and Gabe Turner, this carefully-crafted documentary allocates equal time to the profiling of each player. Entwining intimate one-on-one interviews with a banter-filled gathering of the six at a dinner table helps balance the lavish praise the team-mates have for one another with the joyous repartee of a reunited troupe.
And it serves to provide us with a number of laugh-out-loud anecdotes. Among which, Ryan Giggs describes a bollocking from Sir Alex Ferguson, after he and Lee Sharpe were caught preparing for a big, boozy night-out; Paul Scholes chuckles while fondly remembering the time he nearly knocked out Phil Neville with a football while the defender took a mid-training session wee; and Gary Neville recalls the time he sent Noel Gallagher a guitar to be signed, only to have it returned covered in scrawls of ‘MCFC’.
There is one brief moment of sobriety, however, as both Beckham and Phil Neville reflect on the torrid abuse they suffered after World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, respectively.
It does feel slightly odd to hear from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, but he contextualises United’s success, even recollecting an awkward state visit where the words ‘David’ and ‘Beckham’ proved an unlikely ice-breaker. Blair and Olympic Opening Ceremony director Danny Boyle are nicely shoehorned in to provide a cultural and political break from the non-stop football chat.
As for the players themselves, they seem as relaxed as ever – even Paul Scholes finds himself at ease. In fact, it’s he and Nicky Butt who, to a certain extent, end up stealing the show. The latter of whom is clearly very well respected among his peers. Gary Neville even admits to thinking Butt was perfect to fill the midfield void left by a banned Scholes and an injured Roy Keane, for the Champions League final against Bayern Münich. The final itself is recalled, quite fittingly indeed, as the dramatic and pulsating climax to the film.
This is, of course, a documentary for the Reds among us – y’know the ones we’re never any more than six feet from. But there’s certainly enough for everyone (even non-football fans) in this wonderfully put-together film. For a documentary that could so easily end up going OTT with the sentimental, the Turner brothers have certainly found a decent balance between fresh insight and classic match footage.
A splendid look-back at a golden era for both Manchester United and England. Insightful, yet honest and warm, there’s plenty for even non-Red Devils to take interest in. Can you dig it? Oh yeah.