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04th Dec 2018

BT Sport’s new film looks at a rarely discussed part of Manchester United’s history

Simon Lloyd

A struggling Manchester United side, trying and failing miserably to recreate the glory days of a legendary former manager. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Though there may be some parallels with United’s current plight under Jose Mourinho, Too Good To Go Down – a new BT Sport Film set to air for the first time on Wednesday – is a timely reminder of how things can be (and have been) much worse for the club.

Having become the first English team to win the European Cup in 1968, the film charts United’s demise over the years that followed Sir Matt Busby’s resignation 12 months later.

A turbulent spell in the club’s history, it reached its nadir towards the end of the 1973/74 season when the team, by this point without the iconic trio of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best, were relegated from the top flight of English football.

Directed for BT Sport by Tom Boswell, Too Good To Go Down offers an in-depth look at United’s slide towards the drop under the management of Wilf McGuiness, Frank O’Farrell and, finally, Tommy Docherty. It also tells the story of their immediate return from the second tier the following season, and how that eventually paved the way for United’s successes in the nineties.

Its release coincides with the book of the same name written by Wayne Barton, who also worked closely with BT Sport on the film.

“I was actually planning to write a book on United’s 26-year wait for the title, which of course takes in the period of the film, when I was contacted by Tom Boswell,” Barton told JOE.

“Tom’s a director for BT Sport and had recently done their excellent Golazzo film. He’d read my book 74/75, which is
about United’s campaign in the second division, and we talked about how it could be that an institution like United could go down.

“We were keen to work together and tell that story, but at the same time it was very important to me to ensure we covered the idea that relegation was arguably the rebirth of the club.”

On Docherty, Barton adds: “His era isn’t one that is referred to as often as you might think considering the brilliant football that his team played for three years. So there’s a whole generation or two of supporters who perhaps don’t know much about the post-Busby transition and the issues that came with it.

“In my mind Docherty is probably the third best manager United have ever had and had he not been sacked the club’s wait for a title would probably have been a little shorter.”

The film is narrated by John Cooper Clarke and features exclusive interviews with several key figures, including Docherty and former United players Paddy Crerand, Lou Macari, Willie Morgan, Alex Stepney, Stuart Pearson and Sammy McIlroy.

Denis Law, who scored Manchester City’s winning goal against United on the day of their relegation, also contributes, discussing the famous back-heel which many wrongly assumed directly sent United down.

Too Good To Go Down provides an intriguing look at an important yet rarely discussed part of United’s past. In light of the club’s recent problems under Mourinho, it also offers supporters a sense of perspective.

Too Good To Go Down will premiere at 10.30pm on Wednesday 5th December on BT Sport 1