Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League (2021) s01e04 Episode Script

Episode 4

[no audible dialogue]
[crowd cheering]
It was about the fight.
-[crowd roars]
-[whistle blows]
Your studs are your best friend.
It's like a tug of war.
[commentator] Parlour.
[Ray Parlour]
You can see the tension.
Not just on the pitch,
on the side of the pitch
as well.
[crowd cheering]
Arsene Wenger
brought something different,
and I think that Sir Alex
felt threatened a little bit.
Being a United fan at that time
was just fantastic.
It was just about focusing
on the game
and not about all the shit
that was going on off the pitch.
The media tycoon Rupert Murdoch
wants to buy
Britain's biggest football club,
Manchester United.
Rupert Murdoch
needs Manchester United.
Manchester United
do not need Rupert Murdoch.
We weren't just gonna have
some corporate carpetbagger
come in and take the club over.
It's like, "Okay. All right.
You've got a fight
on your hands then."
The Football Association
has approved controversial plans
to set up a new super league.
I would love it if we beat them.
Love it.
When the seagulls follow
the trawler, they think
sardines will be thrown.
The most expensive player
in the history
of British football
To use a phrase "arms race"
would be appropriate.
[Les Ferdinand]
Footballers became sort of
like rock stars overnight.
[crowd roars]
[Paul Merson]
I've got a choice in life now.
I either go back to the booze
and the gambling and the drugs
or I go the other way.
It's like a religion.
It's something to believe in.
[sax solo from "Baker Street"]
[person] The Premier League,
when it first started,
it was slightly uncertain
about what it had to sell.
And within five years,
they realized they had a product
that was worth a lot of money.
Goes to Warhurst
-[crowd cheering]
Giggs shoots. Goal!
That has settled it!
The Premier League chairmen met
to strike a new
four-year deal with Sky
worth more than ú600 million.
Since we came along
and put the Premier League
on television
and started paying
a lot of money for it,
we have seen
a total transformation
of British soccer.
[narrator] In 1996,
Rupert Murdoch's Sky
agreed to double its offer
to secure the TV rights
for the Premier League
and were now paying
almost ú3 million
per match.
Arsenal's David Dein was one
of the original architects
of the breakaway league,
but so far, his team had failed
to mount a serious challenge.
Now with more TV money
being offered than ever,
club bosses like Dein
were under pressure to succeed.
I had a knowledge and feel
that the game
was going more international
and that we had to move
with the times.
[Arsene Wenger
speaking Japanese]
-Thank you very much.
-[crowd applauding]
And when I saw Arsene,
I realized that here was one
for the future.
[narrator] Arsene Wenger
was an unknown figure
in the UK,
but had enjoyed success
as a manager
with French club Monaco.
After a move to Japan,
he was gaining a reputation
as something of
a football visionary.
[Dein] We were going
to introduce Arsene,
and I went
to the training ground
that morning, and I said,
"Lads, we're gonna introduce
our new manager today."
And so their eyes opened,
and I said,
"Yeah, it's Arsene Wenger."
And Ray Parlour said,
"Who the fuck's that?"
The look around the room was,
"Arsene Wenger?"
We'd never heard
of Arsene Wenger.
We was always expecting
a British manager.
We was like, "Wow. What?
Don't even know him.
Don't even know him.
Don't even know him."
[scattered applause]
Good afternoon.
I know that you had to write
a lot about me
without knowing me
or to speak about me
without knowing me.
That's why I've made
such a long trip to come
and answer all your questions.
He's an unusual guy.
He speaks about five languages,
had a degree in economics,
he understands medicine.
I thought, "This is not
your average footballer
who's just become a manager.
This guy's
a lot more than that."
[reporter] You've certainly
stuck your neck out
for this man.
but we focused our target
on Arsene Wenger.
Last one? Okay, last one.
Really last one.
[Dein] And we've now managed
to get him here.
[photographer] Arsene, this way,
please. Just straight into
this lens. Thank you.
Have you got it?
Okay, ready?
And so to what's been
the school for scandal
in recent seasons,
comes the scholar,
Arsene Wenger
What's he got?
A master's degree?
Master's degree.
I think they were
just fascinated.
I mean, Arsene was
a totally unknown quantity.
Hi. How are you?
Good to see you.
You well? You tired?
Jet lag.
No, it's okay.
We had a new train on the track
and we wanted to know
how fast it was gonna go.
[Parlour] When he first come in
and you looked at him,
he looked like
a bit of a school teacher.
But he had so much focus.
That training ground
was so important to him,
and the training methods
were a different class.
One goes outside.
One goes outside.
Yes! Yes!
[Merson] It was football.
It was all on the clock.
It was Wow.
I could see my abs.
Every club in those days
had a drinking culture.
And we were probably
top of the league at the time.
We had a Tuesday club.
It was well known everywhere.
Tuesday, we went out.
It was like bang,
we'd be in London.
We'd be out all day, all night,
and it got around
all the other clubs.
"Oh, Arsenal are out.
They're out every Tuesday."
We'd put a card behind the bar
and just let it roll.
And it would literally be
till 6:00, 7:00 in the morning.
Say hello to the milkman.
That's if you did go home.
We weren't in Wednesday,
so go out again.
Wenger took drinks
straight out of the bar.
Straight out.
The players' lounge
was stripped.
See you later. No drink.
-[phone rings]
Hi, Martin.
[Martin Keown]
He felt that alcohol was poison,
that you were poisoning
your body with alcohol.
And he wanted us to visualise
drinking water,
to see it flushing
through your body
and cleansing all your muscles.
We'd have chicken,
we'd have steak, potatoes,
raw vegetables.
And he'd literally go around
saying, "Chew to win."
And you had to chew your food
until it was like soup
in your mouth.
He was so far ahead of his time.
Now I was going into games
feeling like I was superhuman.
A new era has begun at Arsenal.
Today, Frenchman Arsene Wenger
takes charge of his first game
in England.
We'd play eight v eight.
It would be one touch
or two touch.
Pass and move. Pass and move.
Then when you got on the pitch
on a Saturday,
you passed and you moved.
Anything appears possible
for the new boss Arsene Wenger,
even the possibility
of a championship bid.
[narrator] Under Wenger,
it was no longer
"Boring, boring Arsenal".
As his first season in England
drew to a close,
Wenger's style of football
was winning over the fans.
Arsene Wenger brought a kind of
continental sophistication
into English football
in the way the players trained,
in the way
they looked after themselves,
diet, everything.
And I think that's partly
what got Ferguson annoyed.
When Ferguson complained
that United faced too many
games in quick succession,
Wenger dared to disagree.
They say Arsene Wenger's
had a swipe
at Manchester United
again today.
He's got plenty to say.
He should maybe concentrate
on Ian Wright's tackles maybe
rather than talk
about Manchester United.
He's a fighter. I mean,
there's two mentalities:
fighter and victim.
And most people sway
between fighter and victim.
Very few are completely fighter
or completely victim.
Alex was one of those people
that was probably locked
into fighter mentality.
Arsene Wenger's been in Japan
for a year.
He doesn't know anything
about English football.
He's unaware
of the demands of our game,
and to play four games
in eight days is crazy.
He's putting his finger
on the pulse and saying,
"Don't mess
with Manchester United."
And his players
would have loved that.
He's come from Japan,
and he's entered
English football
and he's now telling
everybody in England how
to organize their football.
I think he should keep
his mouth shut.
Firmly shut.
That interview there was
Sir Alex at his absolute peak,
where the eyes are ferocious.
He's sending a message there,
"Are you gonna take me on?"
And Arsene Wenger
did take us on.
Can you come across
this way for us?
[White] There was a real,
genuine animus there.
But also Ferguson was
a very sophisticated user
of the media,
and it was a good way
of deflecting attention away
from a bad performance.
He would give them
another headline,
and it was a headline
he was in control of.
And Wenger was much the same.
These were two
very sophisticated users
of the media clashing horns.
They felt attacked,
but it was not for me
a particular attack
against Man United.
It was more a fight
for the regularity
of the competition.
It was
Yeah, an intense rivalry.
It's great television, isn't it?
Arsenal have got to put up
or shut up today.
If they are
serious title challengers,
they've got to prove it here,
simple as that.
[narrator] When the two teams
met at Highbury,
United were still dominating
in the league.
But Wenger had been busy
strengthening his squad,
landing prodigious talents
for bargain prices
from his contacts in Europe,
players that few other clubs
had even heard of.
He knew every single player
around Europe at that time.
Already had Dennis Bergkamp.
[crowd cheering]
He brought in Vieira, Overmars,
Petit, Nicolas Anelka.
When I look
in that dressing room,
there was nobody else I'd rather
have gone in there with.
I knew that we could
upset the apple cart here.
Welcome to Highbury
for one of the Premier League
matches of the season.
It's Arsenal
against Manchester United.
[Ferguson] For us, nobody comes
to your door and hands you
medals, by the way.
You've got to go outside
your door and work for it.
Sir Alex was
a really social manager.
So before every single match
that we played away,
he'd go and sit
and have a coffee with them
in the manager's office.
Apart from against Arsenal
away at Highbury.
He'd be sat in our changing room
for the whole hour build-up.
You weren't gonna sit with him.
He wasn't having it.
And this is where
this run-in with Arsenal
kind of begins.
[whistle blows]
[crowd cheering]
That rivalry
in that particular time
wasn't just about the quality,
it was about the fight.
Who's gonna be up for it
on the day?
Who's gonna want to win?
Yeah, proper tackles flying in.
I love to see that again.
I get a buzz now watching that.
It wasn't just one place
on the pitch, it was 11 players
against 11 players,
and everyone had
their own battle.
[Neville] Players were mirrors
of their manager on the pitch.
They had to win.
It was win or nothing.
Here's Anelka, looking to work
a shooting opportunity.
Does well, and Nicolas Anelka
with his first ever goal
for Arsenal!
And what a time to score it.
Vieira, yes! 2-0!
[Neville] Arsene Wenger
was somebody who, at the time,
was looking to take
Sir Alex off the top spot,
and Sir Alex knew
they had a good team,
and he knew full well
that he had to win that battle.
[commentator] Gary Neville,
drifting behind Grimandi,
has done and tarnished Arsenal.
Nice little flick by Giggs,
and it's Sheringham again!
Oh, ho! 2-2!
Terrific strike from Sheringham.
If you look back to that day,
it was like a tug of war,
that we had to keep pulling
on that rope
to get to where we wanted.
And the header is
in by David Platt!
And Arsenal go 3-2 ahead!
-[whistle blows]
-[crowd roars]
And Manchester United
are beaten, and Arsenal
cut the gap.
[Wenger] I don't think that it
will be as easy as everybody
thinks for Man United.
I think, as well,
it shows the spirit of the team
and the strong spirit
of the players,
of all these
experienced players.
And once again,
a typical Arsenal spirit
made the difference.
Suddenly, there was this
clever Frenchman coming along
who wanted to put
his team in a position
where they could take away
everything that United
were owning at that point.
[narrator] Wenger's sourcing
of continental players
was starting to yield results,
and Arsenal were closing in
on the reigning champions.
Elsewhere, United's old foes,
Blackburn Rovers,
who'd won the Premier League
two years earlier,
were seeing their talent
going in the wrong direction.
[reporter 1] It was
the farewell that everyone
in Blackburn had feared.
Alan Shearer left the club's
training ground for the final
time this morning.
[reporter 2] Hiya, Alan.
Any chance for a quick word?
I've got no comment to make
at this stage.
I'll make it later on.
You must be pleased,
Delighted. Thank you.
Thank you.
[Shearer] Newcastle
were prepared to make me
the world's most expensive
It was a tough decision
at the time,
but it was without doubt
the right one.
I had to stop me van.
I nearly crashed.
I was shocked. Totally shocked.
I can't believe it now.
It's like everything's a dream,
you know?
It is unbelievable
that's he's gone.
I was absolutely gutted
when Alan went.
It was like
there were pieces falling out
of the jigsaw,
and that there was no way
of putting them back
'cause nothing would ever fit
the way that the team fit
at that time.
[crowd cheering]
[narrator] Blackburn's success
had been built
on the personal wealth
of local steel magnate
Jack Walker.
Jack Walker had spent big,
but it was temporary.
It wasn't lasting.
And to be a lasting,
sustainable business,
you had to be on the level
of Manchester United
or Arsenal or Liverpool.
And just, you know,
big business.
[narrator] In their bid
to remain championship
Blackburn were unable to hold
on to their star players
or their title-winning manager.
[reporter] Six weeks
after guiding Blackburn
to the championship,
Kenny Dalglish has taken
a surprise move upstairs.
His move into the background
gives Ray Harford
the return to management
he's wanted.
The club didn't have
the experience to know
how to handle that success.
I remember chairman Robert Coar
saying that we'd won the league
a year too early.
He was talking about it
from a structural point of view
and a planning point of view.
The normal way would be
you refresh your squad
where you can.
But Jack was a great believer
in loyalty,
and I think he thought
these guys have won
the Premier League,
and I want to stick with them.
That was a poor clearance.
Straight to Chris Powell.
And there's his namesake Daryl,
and here's Chris Powell
in the first minute
and the ball lobbed in.
Did it cross the line?
It has now surely!
It's Blackburn 0, Derby County 1
in the very first minute
of the match.
It was frustrating to see it
falling apart, and it
fell apart really quickly.
He's still in there,
tees it up here.
Goal number two!
Blackburn's disastrous start
to the season continues.
Since Alan Shearer left,
it's just pathetic
from everybody.
[reporter 1]
Rovers lie bottom
of the Premiership
just 19 months
after winning the title.
Time must surely be running out
for Ray Harford.
[reporter 2] So there's
no news to be made?
Harford's safe?
There's no news to be made.
[reporter 1]
A friendly handshake
with chairman Robert Coar
ends Ray Harford's reign
at Blackburn Rovers.
We identified Sven
as the manager that we'd like
to come and manage for us.
He said that he'd like
to come and join us.
[reporter] Sven-Goran Eriksson
will fill the manager's chair
at Blackburn
even if he couldn't make it
to his own introduction.
I'm very sorry about that.
Thank you.
It was a bizarre situation,
To announce a manager
and he not turn up.
Blackburn Rovers chairman
Robert Coar says
reports in Italy
that Sven-Goran Eriksson
now doesn't want to come
to Ewood Park are rubbish.
Yeah. His assistant had been
to the training ground
and watched us train
and said,
"Sven, don't take this job.
They're not good enough."
[Walker] We have now received
it officially from him
that he won't be coming
to Blackburn Rovers.
Sven's agent came to see me,
and he said Sven won't be coming
to you in the summer.
but he doesn't want to come.
[stadium announcer speaking,
[Wilcox] We were never gonna be
as big as Man United.
They invested properly.
They had
the consistent leadership,
and we didn't.
[narrator] By 1998, Blackburn's
rivalry with Manchester United
was a distant memory.
A new feud had now gripped
the nation's fans and media,
one that would define a new era
in the Premier League.
What a start to the weekend
here on Sky Sports.
It's Old Trafford,
Manchester United
against Arsenal.
Despite Arsenal's resurgence,
Old Trafford was a fortress,
one that they'd been
unable to breach
since the formation
of the Premier League.
The mind games
haven't started just yet,
but of course there is time.
If Arsenal win here today,
then it really could all go off.
The press loved
the Arsenal-United rivalry.
The fire was there,
but they were chucking petrol
on it all the time.
The drama would be built up
by the papers.
What they did was made football
the national soap opera.
Sir Alex Ferguson
has been saying,
"It's in our own hands".
And a look at the league table
would certainly confirm that.
[narrator] United were
above Arsenal in the table,
but a win at Old Trafford
would mean
Wenger could regain momentum
in the title race.
Arsenal haven't scored here
in the Premiership.
That's a nice record
to keep going, isn't it?
A good record, aye.
All the very best today.
Thank you.
I used to say to Overmars
before the game,
"Look, Gary Neville
hasn't slept last night."
Overmars was absolutely on fire.
There wasn't a player
on the planet who could live
with him that day.
Looking to pick up Overmars.
And Schmeichel has come,
but Overmars has beaten him!
And Overmars
just puts it a foot or so
wide of that far post.
-Yeah, this is it here.
This time Anelka off.
Look at that first touch
into his stride.
Wasn't gonna miss that one.
-[whistle blows]
There it is now, though.
What a win for Arsenal!
And the title race
that looked over
is now wide open
because Manchester United lead
Arsenal now by only six points.
But Arsenal still have
those three games in hand.
[Keown] I do remember sitting on
the bus thinking, "Wow,
what a great day that was."
It felt like
it was a change of power.
You're gonna win fuck all!
You're gonna win fuck all!
You're gonna win fuck all!
Fuck all!
Well, Arsenal, now they're
under pressure, you see.
They've coasted along
behind everyone.
Now they've come with a run.
And obviously,
they're in that position now
that every mistake they make
will cost them.
[reporter] They do have to win
the games in hand.
[Ferguson] Have to win the games
in hand, and will find out
how difficult it is.
Okay. Leave it at that.
Thanks, Alex.
Sir Alex Ferguson is saying,
"Oh, well, I don't think
they'll be able to do it.
They're gonna slip up.
There'll be a mistake.
They haven't
necessarily got the experience."
That was just adding fuel to us.
That was just making us feel,
"Thanks, Sir Alex.
That's another thing
to motivate us."
I think of that Arsenal team
in '98 to this day,
was the best
domestic football team
that I ever played against.
It had everything. The best
of the sort of English spirit
with that back four
with David Seaman in goal,
aligned with Petit, Vieira,
Anelka, Overmars.
Absolutely sensational team.
[narrator] After
an impressive winning streak
of nine games,
Arsenal were poised to win
their first
Premier League title
with three matches
still left to play.
Bould on to Adams.
This would be a fairy story!
Can there be a sweeter moment?
Tony Adams clinches
Arsenal's championship.
[crowd roars]
Arsenal champions in England.
Nobody says "Arsene who?" now.
David Dein knew
what he could do,
and he's done it in 18 months
from start to finish.
He's done a tremendous job,
hasn't he?
I think so,
and there's no doubt.
I mean, in the end,
the results talk for themselves,
and well,
nobody really knew who he was.
But perhaps we knew
a little bit more.
[narrator] Arsenal
confirmed their dominance
by going on to win the FA Cup,
securing the double.
When we won the league in '98,
we won the double that year.
In fact, I think I've got
a picture here.
You can see it.
Let me show you that.
I'm rather proud of that one.
That's from the balcony
at Islington Town Hall.
[narrator] Arsenal were
victorious on the pitch,
but as a business,
Manchester United were still
the dominant force
in British football.
Over the past four years,
their turnover had doubled.
Marketing the club
had become a key priority.
[person] We were definitely
ahead of the game in those days
in terms of all the extra income
that we were bringing in
on the merchandising side,
whether it be magazines, videos,
clothing or whatever.
Fred the Red is the latest
commercial development of a club
where the balance sheet
is as impressive
as the team sheet.
This is for the kiddies' market.
This is a sort of red devil,
a genial character.
A bit like with Warner Brothers,
you see Mickey Mouse
and Mr Blobby and all these
various characters.
[narrator] More than 50%
of Manchester United's revenue
now came from TV, merchandise
and sponsorship.
[presenter] You can buy
all manner of products from
life insurance with Man U Life
to Champions Cola to wallpaper.
[narrator] They realized
the value of their brand,
and it was now going global.
Everyone's just Man U crazy.
[Edwards] We even started
opening up shops
or franchises abroad
to sell our merchandise
in places like Singapore
and things like that,
so we were into it, yeah.
We were really the pioneers
in terms of turning
a football club
into a thriving business.
The media tycoon Rupert Murdoch
wants to buy
Britain's biggest football club,
Manchester United.
The television company BSkyB,
which is controlled
by Mr Murdoch,
said today it was in discussions
which may or may not lead
to an offer being made.
First time I met Rupert Murdoch,
I remember I had an opportunity
to talk about strategy
and where the television
business was going.
The fact that football was
so vital to the future
of any platform
made it obvious to look
at what alternatives
there were for us
to be in the football business
and Manchester United
was the best option.
It had an international brand,
it was a great team,
it had great ownership.
And so you look at that and go,
"That would be nice
to have a piece of that."
Good evening. Bill Clinton
on the verge of impeachment,
Russia on the verge of collapse,
but guess what was leading
the news this week: football.
The massive coverage
of Sky Television's
ú623 million bid
to take over Manchester United
reflected the position
of football
in the nation's consciousness.
I was pretty unhappy about this.
United were important to me.
I was working for Newsnight
at the time,
and they said, uh,
the editor said,
"Can you do a film about it?"
The club's critics
will no doubt say,
"Typical Manchester United."
-Here's one of
the most important meetings
-Oh, is this my piece?
in the whole of the club's
history, and where is it held?
Not at Old Trafford,
but almost 200 miles away
at a bank here
in the City of London.
As the value of their shares
and mine soared,
this Manchester United fan
learnt that the club directors
had spent most of this afternoon
and this evening
locked away
in a secret board meeting.
As day turned to night,
they were still
thrashing things out
in their riverside suite.
And given the outcry their plans
have caused back in Manchester,
no wonder the directors
were being so secretive.
They want to win the league.
We want to win the league.
They want to win the cup.
We want to win the cup.
The most exciting aspect
of this deal is that it forms,
what I believe,
will prove to be one of
the great partnerships in sport.
My concern was,
was Manchester United
as strong with BSkyB
as a backing or as owners
that it was as independently?
And my answer to that was yes.
[reporter] Martin Edwards
is reported to have sold
his stake in the company
for a cool 80 million.
You're already a rich man.
So why do you need extra money,
ú87 million?
I don't need extra money.
It's nothing to do
What's in it for BSkyB?
It's not a biscuit company
you're buying, is it?
It's a football club,
and there must be
a logic to that.
Yeah, well, we think
it's a natural combination.
We invest a great deal of money
in sports today.
We invest a great deal of money
in football today,
and we believe
in the intrinsic value
of Manchester United.
The intensity and the amount
of coverage it got
was beyond what I was expecting,
I have to say.
Now that it's all out
in the open, United fans,
both here in Manchester
and around the world,
are busy speculating
on what involvement
with Rupert Murdoch might mean.
It's just all money. Each club
is one big theme park now.
He's not a football person,
and it's all to do with control
and power and money.
[reporter 1] But some fans
are planning a protest.
[reporter 2]
They chose a typical
working man's club
to vent their anger
at the men they believe
have taken football away
from the typical football fan.
[reporter 3] Joining me now
from Old Trafford, Andy Walsh
of the supporter's club.
Rupert Murdoch needs
Manchester United.
Manchester United
do not need Rupert Murdoch.
[reporter 1]
While the supporters claim
they helped make
Manchester United one of
the biggest clubs in the world.
But the charge tonight
is that it's now in the control
of men who hold football dear
to their wallets,
not to their hearts.
[Walsh] If this deal goes
through, we will be part
of News Corporation
We will be subject
to the pressures
that a large conglomerate
can bring to bear
on its subsidiary companies.
Me dad's a United fan,
and I started going with him
to games
when I was about five or six.
They'd be a part of Mr Murdoch's
worldwide empire.
It became clear
that their strategy was about
dominating the TV market.
That they would be
the broadcaster
and they would also start
to control the content.
And then the argument
then came out,
"Well, what do they want?"
They don't want Monday Night
to dominate 'cause if
Monday Nightdominates,
that's not very good
for the TV, is it?
We are quite concerned
that Manchester United
would lose their independence.
We weren't just gonna have
some corporate carpetbagger
come in and take the club over.
It's like, "Okay. All right.
You've got a fight
on your hands then."
We've called a public meeting
next Tuesday evening
in The Bridgewater Hall
in Manchester.
It's gonna cost us
about ú6,000 to put that on.
We're calling for people
to give money to us so the fans
can have a chance to get
On that back
of that Newsnightprogramme,
I got a call from a guy
who said that he had somebody
who might be interested
in paying
for The Bridgewater Hall.
Had seen the piece on the TV.
Couldn't tell me who it was.
But by that time,
we needed to produce leaflets,
we needed to produce materials
for furthering the campaign.
So I said to him, "Well, look,
I don't know who
you're in contact with,
but we need ten grand."
So he said, "Leave it with me."
And then he phoned me back
and said, "Okay, ten grand."
And he told me that the person
who was willing
to put the money up
was Roger Taylor,
the drummer from Queen.
[Taylor] It's like
the music business, really.
The fans are what make
any big institution
like a rock band
or an artist or a football club,
and I think it's just become
such big business now.
Football fans aren't stupid.
Their football club
matters more to them
than many other things
in their life.
I was in a position to help.
It's not that much
amount of money.
And I thought I would. Why not?
[reporter] About 1,000 fans
attended a protest meeting
at The Bridgewater Hall
to rally support
against the takeover.
The fans believe the deal
is being sprung upon them
It's no good following the line
of "let's wait and see."
It's now we've got to stop it,
not five years down the line.
I remember that meeting.
It was very passionate.
A lot of fans in those days
loathed what Sky TV were doing.
They loathed the fact
that you had to pay out
large amounts of money
to watch your TV.
They loathed the fact
that kick-off times
became dependent
on when Sky said so.
The feeling was that football
was being taken away
from the people
who should be owning it.
He already had the newspapers
backing him up.
Now he had the TV,
and he was gonna get
the club as well.
It was clear
what the motive was,
and I didn't want my club
to end up as a tool
in a worldwide media operation
run by Rupert Murdoch.
Judging by some
of the reactions today,
you would've thought
Rupert Murdoch had lashed out
with his feet,
kicked an opposing defender
and put England out
of the World Cup.
Rupert Murdoch has won
bigger battles than this
all around the world.
Well, that just spurred us on.
In fact, all he wants to do
is buy England's biggest club,
Manchester United.
There's been a
[Walsh] Even the pomposity
of that presenter there,
it was It's just dismissive.
"What do you know,
little people?
This is big business."
As the fans rallied against
Murdoch's takeover bid,
Alex Ferguson's side
were focusing
on just one thing
taking revenge on Arsenal.
[commentator] Neville,
back on for Barnsley.
As Beckham gets the cross in
And Dwight Yorke is there
to get his second of the game!
[reporter] Will there still be
a football club here regardless
of what's gone on over here?
It's important to be
a football club 'cause that's
what this club's been built on,
the traditions of it.
It'll always be that way,
I hope.
That season,
they had to be better
than they'd ever been before
to beat
this magnificent Arsenal team.
Here's Ray Parlour.
Is this number five?
[Beckham] To see Arsenal
do the double hurt us.
We wanted to try and top that.
[commentator] Has to be a
Beckham special. Can he dip it?
Drops it in. Yes, it has!
Beckham's back!
[Keown] I think in '99,
in defending that title,
that we were a far better team
and far more consistent.
From the goalkeeper
to the subs that were coming on,
we had a squad of players
that were all performing
all at the right time.
[commentator] And Beasant
does well yet again.
But there's more to do.
-Oh, that's brilliant!
The stakes were so high.
We obviously feel
that we have to win every game
to stay with them
or stay ahead of them.
Anelka's alone.
Can he score
an individual goal?
He's teasing the defenders!
And the goalkeeper,
and he's back in scoring form.
Every little thing you did
carried an impact.
[crowd groans]
Being a United fan at that time
was just fantastic.
It was just part
of the atmosphere, singing,
bouncing, jumping around.
Here goes Beckham brilliant!
[crowd cheering]
[Walsh] It was just about
focusing on the game
and not about all the shit
that was going on off the pitch.
[Crick] We fans have no love
for the current directors,
but the idea
of Murdoch owning the club
fills us with horror.
It's inevitable.
We'd like to think it wasn't.
We all have a romantic view
of soccer in this country.
It's changed.
This is a ball that's
landed firmly at the feet
of a new trade and industry
secretary, Peter Mandelson.
He's the man
who'll have to refer the deal
to the Monopolies
and Mergers Commission
in the first place.
Some people said it was unfair
that the Premier League
had a television deal
with a company who owned
one of the clubs involved.
And that was inherently unfair
in terms of competition law
and so on.
In order to put political
pressure on the government,
the fans needed
to galvanize wider support
for their grassroots campaign.
We had a team that were lobbying
different football clubs
and trying to persuade
football club executives
to say why this was bad
for football.
We went and bought
a block of shares,
and that meant that we were
in shareholders meetings
and we couldn't be ignored
Where I think we underestimated
was the voracity
of the shareholders.
The person who had one share,
not the controlling
but the average bloke out there
and what he thought.
What they didn't realize
was that football fans represent
such a diverse part of society.
So, you had
some of the best lawyers
in the country against it.
Brilliant marketing people
who were running companies
in Soho
who were Mancs
who wanted to get this stopped.
You had fantastic people
like Andy Walsh
organizing it all.
Michael Crick who knew
exactly how to communicate it.
There were 30-odd-thousand
small shareholders at United.
Then Michael said,
"We need to find a way
of getting letters out.
I just don't know
how we're gonna do it."
So I said, "Well, we've got
hundreds of people
who would help."
So we set it up in
the upstairs room of O'Brien's
where we used to have
our meetings, and we just worked
through the night.
People came and took envelopes
and took letters
and took them home.
Those activities
bring people together.
Within a couple of days,
we'd stuffed
30-odd-thousand envelopes
and every single shareholder
got a letter.
Now this is inside
the annual general meeting.
The fact that the pictures
are so crooked suggests
that this was surreptitious
filming on our part.
But we planned it
very thoroughly
for this meeting,
and we would work out
the questions we were gonna ask
um, and distribute the questions
amongst all the shareholders
that we had there.
And we made sure
not to sit together
'cause if we sat together,
then we would just be dismissed
as a bloc
and nobody would be asked
from that part of the room.
We made sure that we sat
in different parts of the room
so that it wasn't obvious
that we were part of
the campaign opposed to the bid.
Once they started having
these meetings
at the time of the BSkyB bid,
then we obviously were gonna use
this opportunity to go along
and ask questions.
This was all part
of publicising the story.
Uh, you know, if you did this
surreptitious filming
and then you took it along
to television companies
and said,
"Look, we've got secret filming
from inside the AGM,"
of course they're gonna run it.
Oh, that's me.
[shareholders disagreeing]
[shareholders disagreeing]
Quite strong stuff by me.
or any other company.
I think we were all
pretty sceptical
that it would work,
but we all thought we had a duty
to give it a go.
I sort of thought there was
a 10, 20% chance of success.
[reporter] Mr Mandelson
is one of the strategists
behind Labour's wooing
of the Murdoch empire,
and as "Dome Secretary",
he's well aware
that BSkyB has put ú12 million
into his grand
Millennium project.
Doesn't all this add up
to a pretty terrible
conflict of interests?
You know how lawyers
never give you a percentage
chance of winning?
They did in this one,
and it was like 90
or 100% chance,
so our confidence level
was high.
From a shareholder value
point of view,
we think the game is gonna grow
in popularity
[Crick] And somebody
at one point actually tested
Mr Booth and said,
"Can you tell us the name
of United's left back?"
And of course
he hadn't got a clue. [laughs]
That's right, Dennis Irwin.
I didn't It's seared
into my consciousness.
Um I had not gone to a game.
Booth was just sharp suits,
smooch his way
through a press conference,
but didn't have a clue.
[interviewer] So it must have
been about business.
It wasn't just about business.
This was about Monday Night.
[commentator] It's Manchester
United and Arsenal,
both in stupendous form.
Because of that win
last season
and the fact that
you've beaten them
on the last four occasions,
do you feel you have
the psychological advantage
going into this game?
I think at least we know
we can do it.
In our minds,
we know we can beat them.
A colossal contest
in the Premiership power game.
I suppose it suits Arsenal.
Would you settle for that,
Alex, tonight?
I don't think we would settle
for a draw any time.
You're going for the win.
Thanks, Alex.
Thank you.
[commentator] The champions
who took the title
from Old Trafford
are back at Old Trafford
I think we were wounded by them
winning the double
the year before,
knowing how good they were.
[whistle blows]
-[whistle blows]
-[crowd shouting angrily]
There was nothing between us,
and Sir Alex was up against it.
You know, he reacted to '98
in a big way.
[whistle blowing]
[commentator] This is taken
on the turn by Parlour.
Positive work from him.
Kanu That's brilliantly
played by the Nigerian!
A goal for Nicolas Anelka!
It was two teams
right at the top of the game
as good as you could get
just not giving an inch.
Phillip Neville to the left.
Oh, it's Andy Cole
with a header!
Must go, it does go! 1-1.
[crowd roaring]
Arsenal have cracked.
It was a finely contested match
between two sides
who are gonna swipe punches
right through
until the end of the season,
that's for sure.
[Parlour] When you look
back at the footage,
it was a really tough game,
but it's always harder
to retain your title.
Nothing could separate
the two sides.
They were neck and neck
going into the last two games
of the season.
[Keown] The Leeds game
was hugely significant.
We were same points
as Manchester United.
Here come Leeds again
pouring forward. Alan Smith.
Kewell to his left.
Dixon is the defender.
Kewell with a cross,
And Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
could have headed Arsenal
out of the championship!
We had chances in that game,
it just wasn't to be.
Losing to Leeds United
in the 87th minute
really cost us that season,
which was very disappointing
as a club and as a player
and as a team.
As Manchester United charged
towards yet another title,
one-time champions
Blackburn Rovers
found themselves
in a desperate fight
of their own
to avoid relegation
from the Premier League.
As the season entered
its final stages,
the two clubs would meet.
Only a victory
would keep Blackburn up.
The Blackburn Rovers fans
here are asking tonight
how is it that they've spent
ú52 million over six years
and are on the brink
of relegation.
[chanting] Rovers!
[Preugschat] Oh, I were nervous.
Part of you thinking
this can't happen.
It can't happen.
But it might happen.
On that particular night,
I think we played really well.
Well, they were out
of our league, the big teams.
They were definitely out
of our league.
They had more supporters,
they had bigger stadiums,
they had more money to spend
on players,
they had bigger managers.
[crowd groaning]
[reporter] Sport now,
and a sad night at Ewood Park
as Blackburn Rovers
were relegated.
The clips are quite poignant.
Quite, you know
It was an emotional time, that.
When you get relegated,
it's just
it's just the worst feeling.
You feel it for the town.
You feel it for everybody.
I feel so sad.
I've been in tears
and I'm gutted for them.
The knock-on effect of being
relegated is quite striking.
People lose their jobs.
There's redundancies.
Morale drops.
Jack Walker's millions
have helped to put
Blackburn on the map.
There are fears
the local economy
could now suffer.
Likes of the chippy, the cafe,
the local pubs and stuff,
they rely a lot
on supporters coming,
and that's what creates
a lot of their business.
Upsetting for Jack.
Really upsetting.
I felt for him, 'cause he'd done
everything he possibly could.
[reporter 1] The expression on
the Blackburn chairman's face
said it all.
The team that Jack Walker built
had lost its place
[reporter 2] He spent
a hundred million pounds
on the stadium and the players
only to see the club
right back where they were
before he started writing
the big cheques.
As for Manchester United,
if they beat Spurs
at Old Trafford on Sunday,
they will be the champions
no matter what Arsenal do.
1999 is the most bizarre season
because, on the one hand,
you've got a team
absolutely firing
on the pitch,
and yet what they have delivered
has made them vulnerable
to a takeover
by the last person on earth
that you want to take over
the club.
[Walsh] One of our committee
members said
that he'd just had a row
with his partner.
She said,
"You're not gonna beat Murdoch."
She says, "What chance
have you lot got
of beating Murdoch?
You haven't got any grip
on reality. You think
Eric Cantona's a living god."
And then we got a phone call,
anonymous tip-off from a woman
within the civil service.
Don't know who it was.
But she just phoned us up
and said, "You've won."
The proposed takeover
of Manchester United
by BSkyB
has been blocked
by the government.
-Come on!
The trade secretary said
the merger
would adversely affect
competition between broadcasters
and would damage the quality
of British football.
It was David v Goliath.
No one thought we'd win,
but we see the result of
the fans' voice, the fans' power
and the fans united.
Well, some people still think
that Cantona's a living god,
and we did beat Murdoch.
[reporter] At a stroke,
the government has destroyed
a key business strategy
of Rupert Murdoch and BSkyB.
This is a bold,
unequivocal rejection
of a close and a powerful ally.
Sure, it was disappointing.
Ah, it wasn't
a very long conversation
with Mr Murdoch, though.
He doesn't like to lose
at anything, right?
None of us do.
After the deal
fell through then,
did you continue to follow
Manchester United at all?
Not much. [chuckles]
I've been more of a Chelsea fan.
You have to stand up
for what you believe in,
and not a lot of people can say
that they beat Rupert Murdoch,
but we did.
[crowd singing]
[commentator] It's Andy Cole.
Can he get it over Walker?
[crowd roaring]
Cole! Within three minutes
[narrator] In the final match
of the season,
United clinched the title.
Then went on to match
Arsenal's double
by winning the FA Cup.
[commentator] He's got
his teammates in trouble.
That's Sheringham to score!
[crowd roars]
[narrator] But they still had
an opportunity to go one better.
It's another marvellous day
for Alex Ferguson's team
for whom the success story
simply goes rolling on.
[Schmeichel] We had the FA Cup
final on a Saturday.
We had a party after the game
in the hotel,
and then on Sunday,
we left for Barcelona.
It's the chance of a lifetime,
a treble chance,
the likes of which
no English team has had before
or may ever get again.
[narrator] United would face
German champions Bayern Munich
in Barcelona.
Victory would see them become
the first English club
to be crowned European champions
in the Premier League era.
[commentator] McClair
is breaking down the centre.
Johnson has got
some catching up to do.
Stops Carsten Jancker
on the edge of the box
and concedes a free kick.
The feeling in the game was
that we were absolutely terrible
and we never created anything.
[commentator] It's Basler.
Oh, it's deflected and in!
[crowd cheering]
First blood to Bayern Munich!
[Beckham] I remember us
not actually playing that well.
Um, and then, obviously,
they get the early goal.
And then they get
a couple of other chances
where they should have scored.
They hit the bar, hit the post.
But the one thing
the manager said was,
"Don't put yourself
in a situation where you have
to walk past that trophy
and you can't touch it
at the end of the game."
When we moved into risk mode,
when we threw caution
to the wind,
when we gambled everything,
we understood instinctively,
on the pitch,
that it doesn't matter
if we lose this game 1-0 or 2-0.
Doesn't matter.
It doesn't change
the outcome of that game.
The fact of the matter is,
if you lose the game,
you don't win that trophy.
That's what we're there for.
Three added minutes.
It was take risks,
play attacking football,
play with wide players.
Throw everything in the box
in the final five minutes.
You must do everything you can
to win games,
and that's why
I'm on the left wing
with two minutes to go.
The first corner,
I get the corner,
just basically thinking
I'm just gonna go for it.
[crowd groans]
[Beckham] I remember getting
that first corner,
and just something
all of a sudden clicked for us.
[Neville] Sir Alex wasn't
gonna accept us not winning
'cause someone was quicker
than us or someone
was taller than us,
or someone was
tactically better than us,
or someone
was more skilled than us.
Don't care. Find a way to win.
[commentator 1]
The big goalie's coming up.
[commentator 2]
Peter Schmeichel is forward.
Can he score another in Europe?
He's got one in Europe already.
[commentator 1] Beckham.
It's towards Schmeichel!
Find a way.
Don't matter how, find a way.
[commentator 1]
Giggs with a shot! Sheringham!
[crowd roaring]
Then, of course,
we win the next corner and
Now I can't talk about it
[commentator 1]
Beckham in to Sheringham!
[crowd roars]
[commentator 1]
History is made.
Manchester United are
the champions of Europe again,
and nobody will ever win
a European Cup final
more dramatically than this.
That drama played out
around the world.
That was the moment that a lot
of people suddenly thought,
"This is significant.
This is huge."
[all cheering]
This is drama on another scale.
And I think, in terms of
the next stage of development
of the Premier League,
that was the moment
that enabled it to say, "Right.
Every territory in the world
will buy this."
I don't think that would have
happened without '99.
[reporter] The moment
every Manchester United fan
had been waiting for.
Less than 24 hours after
their triumph in Barcelona,
the champions of Europe
were back on home soil.
Waiting for them, a crowd
of some half a million people
lining the victory route
into the city's centre.
It was crazy.
That was absolutely crazy.
Bloody nice.
[Beckham] It was so emotional
and it was such a moment.
The hundreds of thousands
of fans that had turned up
to see us return was just
There's nothing that
could ever top that. Nothing.
That moment,
that specific moment,
going down Deansgate,
I always say it was probably
the one moment in my life,
if I could ever go back,
it would be then.
Seeing those fans
off the scaffolding,
grown men and women crying,
just so much emotion.
The romantic image
of Manchester United
was the one formed
by Matt Busby,
which was telling his players
before they went out,
"Those guys on the terraces,
you're playing for them.
They're paying your wages.
You give them a chance to dream.
That's the most
important thing."
I've got two boys who are both
in their mid to late 20s now.
It was a big thing for me
that they both went
to their first away games
when they were five.
It's not just
a central part of my life,
it's an essential
part of my life.
With a Premier League club
triumphant in Europe,
it was a springboard
for creating new fans
all over the world.
You were catapulting this sort
of brand of the Premier League
around the world.
And I think that's the point
where the Premier League
stole a march
on the rest of Europe.
[White] I think there has been
an unintended consequence
of the Premier League's
great success.
to take the football club
away from the community
that gave birth to it.
What this was was content
for universal broadcasting,
and it was becoming worldwide.
And the pound in the pocket
of a guy in Yeovil or Yangon
was as important as the guy
living in Stretford.
[Dein] All of a sudden,
the television revenue
went through the roof
and on the back of that,
always you have sponsors
coming on board.
Everybody wants
to be your friend.
When I took over in 1980,
Manchester United
was worth two million.
When I stepped down,
we'd been over a billion.
The die-hards thought nothing
of queuing since before dawn
to see their hero in the flesh.
People queue
all over the world like this
to watch Beckham play football,
but this
this is for Beckham
on public speaking.
The Premier League's reach
had begun to extend
across the world.
And yet, this was still just
the beginning of the story.
[Crick] Ten years after
the Premier League started,
the whole finances of football
were transformed.
We had a temporary success
in fighting off BSkyB,
but of course around the corner,
there would be takeovers galore
of top football clubs
in this country.
So, it's 20 years ago now.
It seems like a sort
of rather naive,
innocent period, that,
compared with what
we've got today.
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