It’s only fitting that one of the main storytellers in the Manchester United documentary that will premiere on Sunday on NBCSN about the treble-winning season is the man who called the game that night, commentator Clive Tyldesley.
His words and voice are so intertwined with that memorable day in 1999 when the Red Devils — against all odds — came from 0-1 down to win the UEFA Champions League 2-1 in injury time, thereby making history as the only English club ever to have won the treble of the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup trophies in one season. The year 1999 still lives in infamy.
Fast forward to 2019, and Tyldesley now commentates Premier League games for NBCSN.
In the documentary, entitled The Impossible Dream, that was co-produced by NBCSN and Manchester United, World Soccer Talk had the opportunity to watch a screener of the film ahead of the premiere. And even though I’m not a fan of Manchester United, it’s one of the best documentaries in a golden age of soccer documentaries in the last five years such as Sunderland ‘Til I Die (2018), All or Nothing: Manchester City (2018) and Hillsborough (2014). Out of all of those, The Impossible Dream is possibly the best of them all. Yes, it’s that good.
In this, the 20-year anniversary of the treble-winning season, the timing of the documentary is perfect for three major reasons. One, most of the TV footage surrounding the herculean triumph was never seen on US television. In 1999, the match was televised live across the country but we wouldn’t have gotten a lot of the post-match reaction or scenes of people celebrating in the streets of Manchester. Second, the game of soccer has grown so much since 20 years ago that now is an ideal opportunity to air this documentary to a whole new audience in the United States that can better appreciate the achievement. And third, we could be just weeks away from Manchester City achieving their own treble if results in the Premier League and FA Cup Final go their way.
The Impossible Dream is more than just a film about United’s 1998/99 season. It’s also a fascinating history lesson into English football during the period of the late ’90s. The film touches on Arsenal emerging as a force in the Premier League under Arsene Wenger, as well as focusing on Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial style, David Beckham’s mistake in the 1998 World Cup, the Munich Air Disaster, the phenomenon of Fergie Time and more.
To tell the story of Manchester United achieving the Treble, the two-hour documentary weaves a combination of archival footage, highlights from games and lots of interviews from everyone from fans to players, staff and commentators. The list of interviewees that appear in the documentary is a who’s-who of some of the smartest minds in English football: Bobby Charlton, Martin Tyler, Gary Lineker, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Alan Shearer, Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole, Rafa Honigstein, Phil Neville, Lee Dixon, Martin Keown, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Graeme Le Saux, among many others.
The Impossible Dream is a documentary about how a managerial genius can turn talented individuals into a powerful team that achieved the seemingly impossible – a feat that has never been achieved again in English football. Just like the team’s performances that season, The Impossible Dream is a masterpiece.
Editor’s note: The Impossible Dream will air on Sunday on NBCSN on 2:30pm ET after the Manchester United-Chelsea match.