Man Utd icon Sir Alex Ferguson’s heroic battle and near death experience after brain hemorrhage revealed in new doc

FANS never want to see their heroes vulnerable, frail, emotions revealed in the raw as life becomes a struggle.

So the film ‘Never Give In’ will tug at the heart strings of every Manchester United supporter, maybe every lover of football worldwide.


Never mind all the stuff about growing up in Govan, breaking the grip of the Old Firm, Mark Robins’ goal keeping him in a job at Old Trafford, and the Treble.

We know all that.

What we did not know was the details of how a brain haemorrhage on May 5, 2018 floored Sir Alex Ferguson and left him with a 20 per cent chance of survival.

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How at the age of 76 he came round from an operation and felt the fear and despair that life may be nearing its end.

“I wondered how many sunny days I would see again. I found that difficult,” he said.

How the upset at his condition as he lay in hospital and lost his voice overwhelmed him.

“I was crying, felt helpless.

“I would have hated to lose my memory. I would have been a terrible burden on my family.”

For the first time in his life he was not in control.

He reads one of many letters he wrote to his family while in hospital, no doubt fearing he may not get the chance to tell them all how he felt.

I wondered how many sunny days I would see again. I found that difficult

The one to his wife Cathy is a scribble, with crossings-out, showing how hard it was at that time to perform a basic function. He reads part of it back: “I am proud of you Cathy and your determination, all your years you have shown great strength but my heart should pray for life, you do not give up.

“I was weak and lonely, I miss your light.”

He did not give up.

Still, it is incredible to see him anxiously pacing his kitchen before he returned to the Old Trafford directors box in September of the same year for the first time since his brush with death.

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It was the place which he built, the modern-day club he made, where he forged the teams in his character and where the fans adored him.

Yet here was Sir Alex admitting: “I’m a bit nervous, not nervous but, you know. Sort of tense maybe.”

At times in the film he looks his age, particularly in the early days of his recuperation, and the emotions show when he talks about life and family.

When he talks football, though, he transforms, and he is back on the bench at Pittodrie and Old Trafford.

Narrowing his eyes, as he remembers the way he was treated at Rangers just because his wife was Catholic.

Something that clearly drove a desire for vengeance once he became Aberdeen manager.

“I wanted to put the knife in them,” he recalls about the 1983 Scottish Cup final win.

The film also shows how a sport can affect not just one man but a whole family, particularly during his rocky opening years at Old Trafford.

“Dad, it is not working, you’re not going to be able to succeed here, it is killing us,” his eldest son Mark recalls saying as he pleaded with him to accept defeat.

“I got paranoid, counting magpies, ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’,” wife Cathy said about what became her matchday routine in those tough times. If United were beaten the phone might ring again that night with someone bellowing ‘go back to f***ing Scotland’.

For all the recent protests by fans Sir Alex’s absence in the dugout is all that has changed at Manchester United.

The stadium still holds 75,000, the training ground is the same, the scouting system is probably better and the owners are the same ones that were there for United’s last five league titles and third European Cup.

The investment in the team has been greater than at any time in the club’s history and do not give me former chief executive David Gill was better than Ed Woodward, it has no bearing.

One man has retired and with him went the control, drive, determination, spirit and, most of all, the incredible man-management which this depicts.

But also the same frailties, vulnerabilities and, yes, fears, that we have all felt or will feel as humans.

You would not be one yourself if the final scene does not get you.

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