Technically, this choice breaks the rules. But since we’ve created the rules, we feel free to break them anytime we like. And this time, we’re watching a Justin Miller pick: The Class of ’92. If you know Justin, you know he adores both the Manchester United Football Club and its retired superstar David Beckham. We’ll get to that. First, we must adhere to tradition. Brooke, tell us why you think Justin picked this film out, and what you thought of it.
B: As someone who knows Justin, I have no doubt that this pick was all about his love for ManchNited and Becks. Justin is a guy who likes to be in the know about things he enjoys and this doc runneth over with interesting facts about the lads of ManchNited. It also shows the surprising depth of the relationships between the titular Class of ’92. These guys were brothers and then they did an amazing, historical sports feat together, which means this is a doc with feels on its feels.
I actually quite enjoyed this picture. I love a peek behind the curtain and The Class of ’92 gave us a generous view more than a peek. And I say that as someone who knows very, very little about football in the UK. If I had any idea of the history or anything beyond Becks and the brilliant team nickname I coined, I probably would have loved it as much as Justin does from the word go. As it is, I learned a lot, heard fabulous accents (though some required subtitles) and basked in the glow of handsome footballers. Consider me on board.
Okay, AM, fill me in on other reasons Justin might have picked this movie and then give me your take as a slightly more informed first-time viewer.
A: One of the things Justin and I covered when we were first dating was the basics on Manchester United. Back then, we didn’t know you and that we’d soon call them “ManchNited,” but I digress. I hadn’t seen this film, but I did have the primer on the basics: why David Beckham was (and is) one of the most famous people on the planet, who Sir Alex Ferguson is and why he’s considered one of the best coaches ever, what the “treble” is, why the 1998-9 team itself was so dominant and, last but not least, why ManchNited continues to be one of the most successful football franchises on earth.
Whew. Suffice to say, it’s a lot but it’s way more than the film reveals as context. The film itself is targeted pretty closely at ManchNited Superfans who already knew the background we didn’t.
And you’re right, subtitles were absolutely necessary. Some of the Class of ’92 didn’t experience the necessity of enunciating because they weren’t as over-the-top famous as Becks, and darn if our American ears could simply not make out what they were saying.
Let’s move into some details on not only the most famous of the Class of ’92, but the entire group: we’ve got Becks (obviously), Giggsy, Scholesy, Gaz, Phil (who doesn’t have a nickname), and Butty. Let’s talk more about handsomeness here: aside from the borderline-unfair, ridiculously good-looking Becks, who do you favor? Also, who has the best nickname?
B: I don’t think this is where Justin imagined this post would go when he picked this picture, but I’m also positive he won’t be even a little bit surprised. Obviously, David Beckham is unreasonably good-looking. Like absurdly good-looking, but let’s give the other foxy boys (okay, men) of ManchNited their due. Ryan Giggs, aka Giggsy, who (we learned) played football for roughly 1,000 years, is quite a looker. And it seems he’s really come into his own as he’s gotten older, slight scruff accentuates his cheekbones in a way that the Fab Five on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot would salute. Giggs is working those angles. YAS, Giggsy! I also think that Phil “No Nickname” Neville is roguishly attractive.
However, when it comes to nicknames, I only have eyes for Gaz. His nickname feels the most original. Which is to say, the rest of the nicknames seem to be variations on last names, which is all well and good, but I like imagining backstories!
Great news, Dear Readers. Justin is going to come in here and tell us actual insights about The Class of ’92, because we’ve already allowed it to go off the rails. Justin, my friend, tell us all about the experience of this documentary as a knowledgeable fan. Also, give us the history of Justin and ManchNited and tell us about your favorite part or sequence.
J: Hello fellow readership! Until today, I was one of you, but now here I am talking about the mighty Reds of Manch(ester). Ok, why’d I pick this movie? Simply, I love anything that allows me to feel like I’m part of the team and have some “inside” knowledge. Similar to what you mention, Brooke, but different…I’ll explain. For me, the Class of ’92 and the heroics of the Treble win in ’99 are the reason I joined the bandwagon. Yes, I joined them as a bandwagon follower as they were easy to follow after they won the Treble. Until recently, following the English Premier League (EPL) was rather difficult, which is why I liked it. I had my team and it was something that was mine, something that was different.
Yes, I’m a season ticket holder to the Denver Broncos, yes I’ve loved the Red Sox before they won in 2004, but so do a lot of people I see every day. For me, following ManchNited was something that seemed like only I knew about and I controlled that gate to who I let in to be a supporter with me. It’s like when you hear a song by a new band and you feel special for being part of a small group people that know how awesome that band is. Well, recently, more people are able to follow and the “fans” are now everywhere; like when the band is on the radio all the time and EVERYONE knows about them and you can’t get tickets to their concert (let it be known that I’m not really a concert guy, but I am for the sake of this analogy). The Class of ’92 harbors back to that time when ManchNited was special, when only I knew.
So I love this movie because I get to recall some great memories from watching these guys play. It’s also really nice to not be let down that these guys aren’t a group of asshats; they seem like genuinely good guys that have become great friends over the years. Yes, a few ended up going to different teams, and they’re all now retired, but I like that they’re still friends. There’s something inherently good in that.
I know, I’ve made this a little deeper than I think was initially suspected, but I don’t mess around with my ManchNited. I’ll let AM tell you about the time when we were dating that I made her get up at 5am on Saturday to go to a bar to watch them play the morons of Liverpool. Actually, that’s pretty much the story, so never mind.
I believe it’s my turn to ask a question. Brooke, I see your favorite player is Ryan Giggs; fair choice and based on footballing, would probably be the best player. That said, AM, who is your favorite player (David Beckham)? Don’t let the influence of naming the dog Becks (David Beckham) or the fact that we invited David Beckham to our wedding skew your feeling (David Beckham).
A: The full story is that I got up at 5am to watch ManchNited play Liverpool and because Colorado doesn’t serve alcohol until 7am, the bartender at the local football pub on Colfax got rather salty that everyone was ordering coffee. BAM. 7am hit and we all had bloody marys. Since we’re old now, I enjoy getting up early, and this was a fun excursion and chance to watch a game in a proper pub setting. I’m not mad at all. I would love to go watch a game in actual England, so perhaps this is partially why I married Justin aka Husbandfriend.
I mean, do I have to choose Becks? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to pick him. He might not own any scoring records, but he is hands down the most famous, most iconic player the team (and the Class) has. I think all the players contributed (some more than others, but that’s team sports) to winning the Treble, and fans will remember who was part of that team. However, non-fans will remember Becks long after that feat has faded, and for that, Becks has to be the top. Plus, did we mention? He’s ridiculously good looking. Brooke mentioned the scruff and the years working well for Giggsy, but I think it’s also working (unfairly) well for Becks. Dude looks better than he perhaps ever has, and he is wearing the hell out of a basic white T-shirt and jeans in the new scenes shot for Class of ’92. Damn. I suppose that’s what you get when you are rich and also have a great baseline to start with. And not to mention, the guy can play football. His goal from midfield is pure luck but also pure talent.
It should also be said that the other members of the Class of ’92 not only genuinely get along, seem like good dudes for the most part, but they’re also miraculously not jealous of Becks. I mentioned before some of the hard to understand accents, and that’s a part of it, these guys seem really happy they got to be a part of this whole thing yet do not have 1/10th the scrutiny and attention that he does.
Brooke, your turn. What do you think was the most impressive part of winning the Treble? Also, you get the fun task of explaining what exactly the Treble is.
B: Becks also has the advantage of being married to the most fashionable Spice Girl, so his ridiculous good lookingness is now being accentuated by a damn pro. Unfair.
But I digress, you asked what I think the most impressive part of winning the Treble was. 100% the stoppage time goals to tie the game and take the lead in part two of the Treble … the FA? I think that’s right. Whichever it was, the pressure in that moment had to be so enormous, it almost came across as the more difficult aspect than winning the final game in the Champions League. Or was that during the League championship?! Now I’m doubting myself. Help me, I’m poor!
Anyway, I do think I know how to describe The Treble. So The Treble is supes rare and v impressive because it’s a triple crown situation. For reasons, the footballers can win lots of things in a given year and winning The Treble basically means you won all the things you can win. For the boys of ManchNited that means winning the League in England, the FA (the English cup) and the Champion’s League (European Cup) all in the same year. And for that matter, winning it in a 10-day stretch.
I think I have that straight, but Justin, tell the people if I’m wrong. And while you’re at it, can you briefly explain to me how ManchNited can be in contention for all of those big games at once? 10 days feels very rapid.
J: Prepare for a knowledge bomb, though you are mostly correct. Here’s the deal:
In England, and in pretty much every European country, there aren’t just 20-30 teams like there are in the NFL in the U.S. They have hundreds of teams that play in varying divisions and based on their performance, they either move up or down in those divisions. To keep it simple, the top three teams in the Championship (second division) will move up and replace the bottom three teams in the Premier League. Now, at the start of every season, teams are eligible to win the Premier League (or whatever division they play in) and the FA Cup. To win the Premier League, you play each team twice (home and away) and you get three points for a win and one for a draw; most points at the end of the season wins the league. The FA Cup is your basic knockout tournament. They seed the teams and last team not to lose wins the FA Cup, like a yearlong March Madness pool. Winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup is called “the Double,” and has been done on a few occasions. It’s pretty rare, but not really that unusual if you figure the best team in England has a good chance of winning both.
The Champions League is an entirely different animal. If you’ll recall the previous paragraph, I mentioned how the top teams in the lower division move up? Well, this is a similar. The Champions League pits the best teams in Europe against each other. So basically the top four teams in England, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Netherlands, and so on all get tossed together in table/knockout tournament. This is the best of the best on the club level. Winning it is v difficult and v v impressive. To date, ManchNited has won three times total, in ’68, ’99 and 2008. So to even get in to the tournament, you need to be good the year before and then go on to win. It should be noted, there are typically five to six teams fighting to get in the top four every season.
The season is set up so all these things end at roughly the same time. All the leagues play basically during the same time frame, so the confluence of the three ended in 10 days during the ’99 season.
Going back to the film, I’m impressed at the way they worked the player stories and the personal drama into the final games of the ’99 season. You have David Beckham (ahhh), who grew up in London with a grandfather who was a devout Tottenham fan needing to beat Tottenham to win the Premier League, check. Then you have Ryan Giggs, arguably the greatest steward ManchNited has ever had (no disrespect to Sir Bobby Charlton), going to score against Arsenal in the semi-final game when they’re down a man and getting the greatest goal in ManchNited history, check. Then you have Butty, a rotational midfielder who normally plays behind captain and all-around bad ass Roy Keane (not part of the Class of ’92, so he gets no airtime, but this guy was the heart of ManchNited) who gets to the Champions League final due to Keano’s suspension. They then go on to steal the game in stoppage time, scoring both goals to beat Bayern Munich, check. Whew! Though I didn’t watch any of the three games, these 10 days made me a fan.
So, since AM has said she’s joined me as a ManchNited supporter, Brooke are you now on board to come over and watch a game or two?
B: I am indeed ready to really support the lads of ManchNited! I’m going to need you to teach me some songs and whatnot so I can be properly invested. I will even go so far as to declare a second favorite team, Scotland (a national team of some stripe, I assume), because when they win J.K. Rowling does very excitable tweets and I imagine her joy manifests a flurry of words. But we’re talking about ManchNited and I have more questions.
Well, one big question anyway. I want to hear from the both of you what your favorite behind-the-scenes memory or anecdote from Class of ’92. Personally, I liked the tale of Becks’ tricked-out Honda Prelude. I love that he paid extra on a free car (for short-term use) for leather seats and promptly had the guys determined to get mud all over the place. It’s such a normal human spin on such a singularly soccer player story that I find it impossibly charming.
A: The Prelude anecdote is delightful, but I’m partial to how much detail the guys remember about each game. They remember vividly how much time was left, the score, the guy who passed them the ball for a specific shot, how they approached that shot, etc. etc. I get that the end of the ’99 season might have left a stronger impression on the guys than most other games in other seasons, but it’s impressive nonetheless. I have that same reaction when Justin rattles off stat after stat, but this level of detail is on a whole other level.
Also, probably my favorite story is when Manchester City fan Noel Gallagher from Oasis trolls Gaz about playing for ManchNited, going so far as to sign a guitar with “You suck, MAN CITY RULES” or something to that effect.
Justin, your favorite anecdote, go!
J: There are two that come to mind. I really like the idea of Ryan Giggs getting all ready to go party on the Manch town, not with Oasis, and the Gaffer shows and everyone scatters. It’s like we used to do when the cops would break up the Freshman year parties; even these guys have rules that they sometimes enjoy breaking. Secondly, the story of Paul Scholes trying to bang people in the coconut with balls and him saying, “it was good passing practice.”
I can just see Christiano Ronaldo showing up to training, having a wee in the bushes and getting pelted with a head…or Phil getting banged when he’s just trying to get some extra running practice in. I could really listen to stories like that all day long, about any sport and pretty much any team…though not about the Canadian Sled Hockey team, but that’s another post.
A: Final thoughts: ManchNited is probably the best of all time. Becks is definitely one of the most good looking/successful people of all time. And we all learned new things (well, Brooke and I did) about the sport the rest of the world idolizes.
B: Does this mean we passed phase one of soccer hooligan training?
We’re keeping it United Kingdom on our next installment, but there will be less football and more … scandal. Of the kind Dame Judi Dench likes to scribble about in a creepy notebook.