Busby family outraged by new Man United movie
Published 23:00 21/04/11 By David McDonnell - EXCLUSIVE
The family of Sir Matt Busby are furious at the portrayal of the iconic Manchester United boss in a new BBC film.
The feature-length drama, titled United, tells the story of the 1958 Munich air disaster, in which eight of the Busby Babes were among 23 people killed. However, their portrayal of Sir Matt has distressed his relatives.
They claim the £2million movie, showing on BBC2 on Sunday night, is riddled with inaccuracies and paints a false picture of the most tragic and significant episode in United’s history.
Some of the survivors of the disaster have also expressed their anger at the film, which stars Dougray Scott as Sir Matt and former Doctor Who star David Tennant as his assistant Jimmy Murphy.
Sir Matt’s son, Sandy, who still retains strong links with United, said the portrayal of his father was misleading and claimed the film-makers had taken dramatic licence to the extreme in their account of the disaster and its aftermath.
The Busbys insist there is no ill-feeling towards the family of Murphy, who collaborated with the making of the film, which centres around him.
But they are angered at the way Sir Matt has been depicted - from the clothes he wears to the way his character is portrayed.
“The film-makers have put my dad in an overcoat and a trilby hat,” said Sandy. “He looks more like a gangster than a football manager.
“In the film he never appears in a tracksuit, which is ridiculous, given he was the first ‘tracksuit’ manager of his generation.
“And the way he’s played, with head constantly to one side, is all wrong. My father was a proud man, proud of his fitness and of the way he carried himself.
“They’ve also got his character all wrong. In one scene, my dad is talking to Alan Hardaker [former Football League secretary] and speaks to him in a manner and in a tone my father would never have used.”
Former United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, who pulled Sir Matt and several team-mates - including Charlton - as well as a pregnant woman and her daughter from the wreckage, said: “Sir Matt had an aura about him and everyone respected him. But he certainly didn’t walk about in a trilby and a camel hair coat, as he does in the film.”
Although United stops short of recreating the crash itself, instead dramatising events immediately before and after it, scenes of burning debris, dead bodies and wounded victims make it a harrowing watch.
The drama shows how Murphy, who was not involved in the accident, rebuilt the United team while Sir Matt recovered from his injuries and how a young Bobby Charlton - just 20 at the time of the crash - coped with his grief.
“I wasn’t consulted about this film and, after seeing it, I’m glad I had nothing to do with it,” said Sandy.
“The film-makers said they would protect the feelings of those relatives affected by the Munich disaster. But I was very upset watching the scene involving the third [and fatal] take-off of the aeroplane and had to leave the room.”
Gregg is unhappy at the portrayal of the United players.
“The film portrays us as a pub team,” he said. “To me that is a terrible insult to the great footballers of that generation, the likes of Roger Byrne and Tommy Taylor.
“If that’s the way the United team of that time is portrayed, what does it say about other great players of that era, like Billy Wright, Dave MacKay or Danny and Jackie Blanchflower?
“The film gives a totally false picture of football at that time, which is what angered me the most. In the film, Mark Jones [United defender who died in Munich] is smoking a pipe in the tunnel before a game. I know there’s poetic licence, but that’s ridiculous.”
Sandy Busby said: “My father’s idea and dream was to build a young, determined squad of players and make it one happy family.”
In preparing for his role as Sir Matt, Scott said he spoke to people who knew the former United boss, as well as watching video footage of him and reading up on his extraordinary life.
“I really enjoyed playing him,” he said. “He was a great character to play. Like anything I do, I did my research and tried to find out as much about the man as you possibly can in the time that you’ve got.”
There is also dismay among the Busby family at the film’s failure to acknowledge key people at United at the time, the likes of chief scout Joe Armstrong and trainer Tom Curry, both influential member of Sir Matt’s backroom team.
There is also scant mention of United secretary Walter Crickmer and coach Bert Whalley, while the eight journalists who were killed in the tragedy are overlooked.
Sandy added: “My dad appointed a loyal staff including Joe, who was chief scout and responsible for discovering many of the Busby Babes. But there is no mention of him in the film.”
James Strong, United's director, said: “We’ve made every endeavour to be as accurate and truthful as possible in spirit and intention.
“We want this to be a fitting and appropriate memory of these amazing players, this amazing team and this amazing story that a lot of people are aware of.”