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Manchester United: The Biography: The complete story of the world's greatest football club Hardcover – 4 Sep 2008
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A rich and thoroughly enjoyable tapestry (Sunday Business Post)
All encompassing yet readable (Irish Times)
**** (London Metro)
A must read for anyone who takes football seriously (RTE Guide)
* The story of the biggest football club in the world.
* Covers everything from the birth of the club through to the 2008 Champions' League final in Moscow.
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In White's defence, though, he's not afraid to criticise, and key figures such as Roy Keane, Bryan Robson, Cristiano Ronaldo, former chairman Martin Edwards and even Alex Ferguson himself are all castigated for their perceived failings.
There are also, as Pat Stenson notes, multiple factual errors. That they appear in the book is probably a testament to White's confidence in his own memory of the events he witnessed first-hand, but even a cursory glance at YouTube will reveal that Brian Kidd was not wearing a "blazer" when he leapt on the pitch to celebrate the crucial 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1992-1993, while a cursory glance at Wikipedia will tell you that Jaap Stam was indeed bought from PSV Eindhoven rather than Ajax.
One of the most obvious errors occurs on the very last page, where White refers to United youngster Danny Welbeck as "Daniel Welback". When White was writing the book Welbeck was still very much an unknown, but he has since made his Premier League debut (scoring a superb goal against Stoke in the process), and the fact the mistake is in the very last paragraph means it colours your final assessment of the book's accuracy.
Likewise, White sometimes shows a fondness for anecdotal evidence that is impossible to verify. The story about a player submerging himself in a bath of freezing cold water for half an hour to escape one of Ferguson's trademark rants certainly raises a smile, but it's almost definitely untrue.
But in spite of all that, the book is a tremendous achievement, and White's wide-ranging account of United's history is informed by the enormous role the club has evidently played in his own life. He is at his best when writing about the Tommy Docherty era of the late 1970s, when United emerged from the old Second Division to become once again one of the most entertaining sides in the land, and it is clear that it was during this period that White was first blooded on the raucous Old Trafford terraces. Now a journalist, his account of the Ferguson era is accompanied by intriguing chunks of insider information, lending a freshness to a period in the club's history that has been extremely well-documented already thanks to the huge growth of media interest in the game over the last 15 years or so.
This book is an insightful, warm-hearted and at times beautifully written love letter to White's favourite club and fellow fanatics will find much to savour in it. Neutrals and United fans not blinded by their love of the club, on the other hand, may find it a little harder to swallow.
There are some very minor errors (as other reviewers have pointed out) but they do not detract from a book that should be of interest to both fans and people interested in English football. What the author does so well is spend the right amount of time on things, he doesn't regurgitate George Best's history, or go through pages of statistics, he hits the important notes and fleshes them out with perfect pace.
I picked this up thinking I would dip into it over a couple of weeks, but ended up finishing it in two days. Recommended.
The only criticism I would have is that there are numerous glaring factual errors - for example, the words 'Football Club' were removed from the badge in 1998, not the initials 'F.C'; Gordon McQueen did not equalise in the 1979 Cup Final, rather Sammy McIlroy after McQueen had pulled one back (despite what Lou Macari bizarrely states!); Bryan Robson did not score 'the winner' in the 1994 FA Cup Semi-final, but the third goal in a 4-1 victory; and Jaap Stam was signed from PSV, not Ajax.
These are small details, however. On the whole this is a hugely entertaining read. Highly recommended.
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