Beat that, Hollywood

Posted by Playroom Kreativ Rådgiver

Tom O‘Donnell


From watching man land on the Moon, to the Superbowl or Live Aid, the most watched television programs of all-time are live events. 

After last night’s football match between Ole Gunnar Solskjær and PSG, the history books will read Paris Saint Germain 1 Manchester United 3 but it is almost impossible to describe how it happened, and just how deep the drama was. Whether you like football or not, it was another example of why real, live events are in a league of their own when it comes to gripping entertainment.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

I watched A Star is Born on a plane recently. It is an excellent movie, filled with brilliant performances, an extremely well written script and a soundtrack that was recently rewarded with an Oscar. In terms of films of the year with mass-appeal, they don’t come much better. It is dramatic, it is moving, it is poignant, it is an interesting reflection of today’s society and it features two lead characters, with deep back stories played by actors at the peak of their powers. But even though they shot some of the performances by Bradley Cooper at real music festivals, and even though Lady Gaga is astonishingly convincing as a singer who goes from performing at drag bars to performing in stadiums, I know it isn’t real. It’s not actually happening, I can only suspend belief.

Sport is unscripted. In the case of football, it is for most fans, a never-ending soap opera of ever-more unbelievable storylines. Much like the marital break-ups of Dallas, or Neighbours, or EastEnders, football has its own plot but unlike a movie, the show is decades long. It keeps growing, the characters keep changing, they disappear and reappear in unexpected places. Heroes become villains and villains become heroes. You will find honour, you will find cheating, you will witness backstabbing and whilst there are certainly moments of skullduggery there are many more moments of unimaginable beauty. And best of all, it is all real.

Last night’s plot read something like this: PSG, one of the world’s biggest spending football clubs with high ambitions of becoming a super-power, play Manchester United, a former super-power that for the past seven years have been largely down and out. Manchester United come into the game having to do what no team has ever done in the 107-year history of the European Cup; overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg in which PSG outplayed and out-classed Manchester United for long periods, away from home.

The sub-plots are almost too numerous to mention. Manchester United lose a series of star players to injury in the build-up to the game, with 10 first-team players out but in the last few weeks, United have been taken over by a hero from the past, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who has come into a club that was down on its knees and given the side belief. In just 14 weeks he has also returned the club to 70-year-old principles of trusting young players and giving them opportunities on the world’s biggest stages. 

While there is hope in Manchester, there is an element of doubt in Paris. Despite all the money they have spent on the team, they have never made it passed the last 16 of the Champions League. Despite being 20 points ahead in their domestic league, the PSG players know that they will only silence their doubters, if they can perform at the top-level in Europe. To become a super-power, they need to beat the super-powers. Last year they went out to Real Madrid. The year before to Barcelona. 2-0 up and playing against a team of 11 largely reserve players that have never played together before? This was their time, surely.

On the face of things there is no-one in the world that thinks there is any chance of Manchester United winning. If anything, most commentators would say it could be an exercise in damage limitation but our hero spends the week telling the world that it is possible. Solskjær does after all come from a Manchester United team that won this competition exactly 20 years ago with two goals in the last minute of the game, with a team ravaged by injuries, in which he scored the winning goal himself. This was the most famous game in the club’s history and won Manchester United a never-before-or-since-done treble of the three biggest trophies available to any football team. Epic enough yet?

But that’s just the build-up. You should see the main event. Throw in a few extra characters such as a video referee or an injured Brazilian superstar screaming from the stands and after 95 minutes of incredible live action in which Manchester United fall down a mountain and climb up it again, a 21-year-old product of the youth system at Manchester United has a penalty kick in the last minute to take his team into the next round on the slimmest of margins; the away goals rule. He is facing one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time and he has never before in his life taken a penalty in a competitive game for his club. 11 PSG players and a crowd of 80,000 fans are doing everything in their powers to put him off, from barging into him and stamping on the penalty spot, to shouting obscenities. He takes it all in, takes a deep breath and smashes the ball into the top corner for a place in history.

My reaction, like everyone else, was to fall in love (again) with the story of Manchester United and I am not even technically a fan. Action = reaction.  

Beat that, Hollywood. This is why we love live events.

Marcus Rashford (above); The Busby Babes and Manchester United’s treble winning side (below).

Marcus Rashford (above); The Busby Babes and Manchester United’s treble winning side (below).

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