In the end, it was the outcome that no Manchester United supporter wished for.
And it’s not something Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s legendary former manager, would have enjoyed seeing. Nonetheless, images of him on the pitch in Poland following United’s Europa League final loss to Villarreal last Wednesday were nostalgic and poignant.
This is especially true in light of the recent release of “Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In,” a moving new documentary directed by the Scot’s son, Jason.
After collapsing in his home and suffering a life-threatening brain hemorrhage on May 5th, 2018, the legendary former United manager required emergency surgery. Jason himself was the one who dialed 911 on that particular day.
His father would be forced to use every ounce of his legendary fighting spirit.
“I think it would have helped, I think subconsciously it would have helped,” Jason Ferguson tells reporters. “But ultimately, he’s in the hands of others.
“You know, he was 75, it was a large bleed. We were told just get ready, prepare for the worst. He’d looked after himself and speaking to the neurosurgeons further down the line, that was a big factor and so, you know, you’re in the hands of others.”
United were English champions 13 times and European champions twice under Alex Ferguson. Despite his father’s fearsome managerial reputation and huge success, Jason claims that his goal was to capture the man rather than the public perception.
“I think it was the day of the Champions League final and my two sons had gone up to watch it with him, and he lost his voice,” Jason recalls. “It just vanished.” It was terrifying, he claims. As a result, the fear that this would have an impact on his memory resurfaced.
“It took again about 10 days for it to come back, but there was a period when he literally just couldn’t speak, which is not an uncommon by-product of the operation he had. It was not something he’d ever been through before. So it was a really scary time for him.”
Ferguson’s proud Glaswegian heritage is explored in the film. He met Cathy, his beloved wife of more than 50 years, there.
This is a gripping account of the life of a young and at times struggling footballer. Yet now — all these years later — a desire to tell it, warts and all.\s” And then he came over the next morning, first interview, and I started to ask my first question,” Jason said.
And he just went: ‘Stop, stop, stop. I know exactly what I’m going to say.’ Then he just spoke for about 20 minutes, completely painting a picture of the world in which he grew up as a young boy.
“The sights, the sounds and smells and that was us, off and running. He looks back on his time there very warmly, and at the same time as you see in the film, there are moments when he was still living in Glasgow that were difficult for him.”
Jason and his two brothers — his twin, former footballer Darren, and older brother Mark — would find the film to be a bit of a learning experience.
Jason thinks to himself, “Yeah, very much so.” “There were certain interviews I did where certain personal details were revealed, and afterward, I would call my brothers and ask, ‘Did you know this?'” They were all like, ‘No!’
“In relation to his earlier days, I was sort of aware he’d had an issue with his dad, but I wasn’t aware they didn’t speak for two years. And I sort of knew about the whole emigrating to Canada element that he effectively for the first time and only time in his life he had given up and he was walking away from football and he was emigrating — and then fate stepped in.”
Indeed, despite admitting in the film that he’d “gone off the rails a little,” Alex Ferguson’s move to North America after a life-changing hat-trick against Rangers — the team he grew up supporting and would later play for — never happened.
Ferguson struggled at United at first, despite his huge success as a manager in Scotland with Aberdeen.
Poor outcomes. It’s a fight to keep his job. Then there was the impact on the entire family, including Jason’s mother, Cathy, whom he refers to as the family’s “rock.”