I like good questions. Growing up I was allowed to ask questions – indeed encouraged to ask them as well as be prepared to answer them. It is this questioning attitude that got me into reading and eventually into philosophy. I’ve kept on asking questions of things to this day and am always questioning my own views on life, the universe and everything. A good question in the current light could be phrased as such: As a staunch and committed Liverpool supporter who understands the antagonistic relationship with the footballing occupants of Old Trafford, what on earth possessed you to read a book about them? Surely it would be anathema to me. Surely the sight of such a thing would have been withdrawing in disgust much as Count Dracula would withdraw from sunlight.
Good question and good argument. The answer is simple. I love football. I used to worship football and was overwhelmingly devoted to Liverpool. In such a worshipful mode I paid little to no attention to that side down the East Lancs road and despite their growing success I would maintain the antipathy. Then I grew up. I discovered to my surprise that there’s more to life than football and that LFC could not sort out relationship and employment issues as well as deeper things in life. As I got to grips with this new found reality I then began that hard journey of getting a better perspective on the role football played in my life. I remained a firm Liverpool supporter, but settled into developing and understanding and then appreciating good football. Of course Liverpool’s failure to win the Premier League in the 20 years and ongoing mediocrity and flattering to deceive assisted the process of chilling out of rabid fanaticism.
The facts are there to be seen. Whilst Liverpool have declined since 1990, no other club has dominated the nineties and noughties like Manchester United. The trophy haul of the club has been a phenomenon never seen in English football before. The fact that this dynasty has been masterminded and overseen by one man in the length of that time is a testament to Sir Alex Ferguson’s undimmed hunger for footballing glory. Now there is rabid fanaticism if ever you wanted to see it. Not just winning, but to keep on winning, to rejuvenate and renew the side with commitment to the best football traditions would usually be admired and applauded by all true football lovers everywhere. Jim White’s book Manchester United: the Biography, he shows the key factors as to why that applause and admiration are if anything reluctant and begrudging.
It is one thing to pick up a book to read, it’s another thing to keep reading and it is something yet further to find that you look forward to what you are reading in the hope to continue reading on. White writes in a manner that keeps me interested in reading on. It is about content and style. You would have thought with the content on offer to write about one of the world’s most glamorous clubs it would be a doddle, but that would be hugely misleading. It’s one thing having the content and the other thing having the style. White’s style is engaging and engrossing. What is also key is that White is a United fan. So for all the expertise he invests in the book which makes him such a renown journalist, it is his own insight into the heart and soul of the club that raises the level of interest in the book. As well as that, though, this is not part of the corporate machine to churn out United paraphernalia to keep the tills ringing. It’s not a United hagiography where all things work together for the glory of the club – it is a real, honest appraisal of the factors that have made it what it is warts and all.
Linking the past to the present in the continuity of an every involved narrative, White brilliantly weaves key themes of authority and ownership, identity and perception throughout the book. So whether it was the bid to save the club back in the late 19th Century or Ronaldo’s compromised image with the fans due to the nature of his departure, you have a great insight into how it matters to the fabric of the club’s tapestry. Usually reading the parts of the story way back at the turn of the century can be rather dull and boring. A bit like most football player biographies where the early years at school and in the family are usually as boring as boring can be. White, however, really makes the story of how the Heathens because Manchester United rather engrossing, as if to wonder how on earth a club could lurch from one issue to another.
I have loved reading the book and would recommend it without reserve to anyone interested in a good story, anyone interested in finding out what it is about football that brings out so much in people. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in how a club can reflect its city and then go onto be somewhat very different to what’s going on. It is applicable to football lovers and those interested in the socio-economic impact on the lives of people of a sport like football.
I am no less a Liverpool fan for loving this book and highly recommending it. I don’t have to like United to like good football and the fact that it has been part of the club’s value base ever since Busby developed three teams that were known for this type of football. During the barren years it was no less a requirement and the personalities and politics involved in the story are so intriguing that it makes you wonder how people could not find the game so fascinating.
I would defy anyone to say there has been a biography of a football club to match it. If there have been other football club biographies it is clear that as in their trophy haul this book sets the standard as a champion telling of a club’s story.