Review: Class of ’92
The Class of ’92 looks back on the golden generation of David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and all the other names that came off that incredible conveyor belt of talent – the Manchester United youth team system.
Setting the team in context amid the wider events of 1992 (Tory government, poll tax, Sinéad O’Connor!) Class of ’92 shows how the spirit and identity of Manchester was preserved in the face of government indifference through music and football. More on that later.
First and foremost, the film succeeds in humanising these players in a way we haven’t seen before. Giggs is great here, revealing his nickname for Becks “I used to call him treacle *does London accent* Alright treacle!” and doing some very funny impersonations of the Neville brothers. For every bit of dressing room banter there’s also a serious moment of appreciation, like Giggs’ wonderful goal against Arsenal in the 1999 FA cup. His run is slowed down so we get to see all the feints he makes to draw in defenders as he waltzes past to score a corker. It’s here that we see part of what does set the class of ’92 apart from the rest of us: sheer natural talent.
We also see that natural talent isn’t enough. The other thing that makes these men stand out is their dedication. Rapheal Burke is a name most won’t have heard of because he didn’t have that quality. Described as one of the most naturally talented youngsters on the books, Raphael didn’t have the same dedication as say, a Gary Neville (who stopped hanging around his old set of friends to avoid getting into trouble and to concentrate on his football) which prevented him from being a part of football history.
The film has a loose narrative based around key matches in the players careers and also focusing on individual player stories. Beckham’s tale of World Cup woe and redemption is particularly moving. His reaction to meeting his dad after the Argentina red card is a very touching moment and reminds us that, at the end of the day, footballers are all human. Zidane pops up to confirm what we all knew anyway; Beckham is a thoroughly decent chap.
The down to earth nature of Paul Scholes is explained wonderfully by director Danny Boyle. Everyone else is “faffing around” in the box and Scholsey would be there in the gap, waiting to pounce. A nice, decent, family man whose simplicity in his approach to life shows though in the way he plays the game. The romantic notion of the ordinary everyman being a superstar. One who could also hit you in the back with a shot from 50 yards while you were peeing. Everyone has their mischievous side!
We also get an insight into their manager. Fergerson vastly increased the scouting network within a months of his arrival. He’s also shown as a rock of support for players in need and a stern parental type when what they need is a telling off (Giggs’ retelling of him and Lee Sharp’s hairdryer-treatment is another highlight). Some notable contributions to the cause are put on record. Nicky Butt’s (handy in a fight, apparently) manful showing against Bayern Munich is given the credit it deserves. Phil Neville’s stepover technique(!) is given the full slo-mo treatment and his brother Gary is given his due as an organiser and defensive bedrock.
As you’d expect, the “You don’t win anything with kids” line gets a thorough going over. Actually, the film is quite fair to Alan Hansen, showing the quote in full and pointing out that, after the opening defeat of the season, many of the players felt the same way. The speed with which they learned from the older players and gelled as a team surprised everyone.
The responsibility placed on the shoulders of the class of ’92 was mirrored by the surge in youth culture throughout the UK, particularly in Manchester (Oasis, Britpop, etc). The soundtrack is heavy on The Stone Roses and Manchester bands, as you’d expect, and it sums up the spirit of adventure and ambition almost as perfectly as this quote from Beckham “It’s never enough to win just one trophy”. There’s also a pretty funny Oasis/Gary Neville story that you’ve probably heard before, though this time it’s Gary telling it.
All in all, Class of ’92 is a great mix of talking heads, archive footage and interviews with the players involved. It summons up the spirit of a team and the feeling of a golden generation achieving its full potential. Sometimes poignant, sometimes very funny, but always insightful, Class of ’92 is as much about friends living the dream as it is about football.
The Class Of 92 is out in selected cinemas on the 1 December 2013 and out on DVD from the 2 December 2013.