After failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, England manager Alf Ramsey is replaced by Don Revie (Colm Meaney), the highly successful manager of Leeds United. Revie’s replacement is Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), the former manager of Derby County and a fierce critic of Leeds, because of their violent and physical style of play under Revie’s management. Furthermore, Clough’s longtime assistant, Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), has not joined him. The roots of Clough’s conflict with Leeds are depicted as happening in a 1968 FA Cup match between Leeds, the leaders of the First Division and Derby, who were struggling near the bottom of the Second Division. Clough, assuming Revie to be a similar man to himself, as they grew up in the same part of Middlesbrough and both played for Sunderland, made many preparations for the match; come the day of the match however, Revie failed to even acknowledge Clough upon entering the Baseball Ground. Derby eventually lost 2-0.Although Clough initially blames the brutality of the Leeds players, he and Taylor recognise that their side are not good on a technical level. So they sign veteran Dave Mackay (Brian McCardie), along with several other young players. Chairman Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent) is extremely anxious about the investment, as well as the fact that Clough did not consult him before signing Mackay. However, in 1969 Derby are promoted. They once again face Leeds, only to lose 5-0. The club win their first ever League championship in 1972, meaning a European Cup campaign the following year. They go through to the semi-finals against Juventus. Unfortunately, against Longson’s advice, Clough uses his best squad in the last match before the semi-final, against Leeds, purely out of pride and determination to beat Revie. They suffer injuries and Billy Bremner (Stephen Graham) sarcastically wishes Clough well for the semi-final. Juventus defeat them 3-1, and Clough publicly lambasts Longson. Taylor then suffers a heart attack, and Clough tries to secure his position by offering his and Taylor’s resignations in a protest against the chairman’s unwilligness to fund further signings. To his horror, the club accepts their resignations and bans them from entering the Baseball Ground again (although Clough later sneaks in as a supporter). Derby fans’ outrage raises Clough’s hopes of being reinstated, and he is backed by the majority of his players as well, but former player Dave Mackay is appointed manager instead. Derby fans quickly lose interest and Clough loses all hope of getting his job back. He and Taylor are then offered jobs at Brighton & Hove Albion. They agree to take the jobs after taking an all-expenses-paid holiday in Majorca. During the holiday that summer, Clough agrees to take control of Leeds after being approached by their representatives. Taylor, however, argues the case for staying at Brighton, and after a bitter quarrel, the two go their separate ways. Clough alienates his Leeds players in their first training session, first by telling them that they can throw away any awards they have won because they “never won any of them fairly”, and then making them start with a 7-a-side game, which Bremner points out Don Revie never made them do. Clough reminds them that he is not Mr Revie and threatens a severe punishment for any player who mentions the former manager’s name or methods again. Clough´s determination to crush Don Revie overshadows everything and he is soon to be faced with what that means…

“The Damned United” is based on David Peace’s bestselling novel “The Damned Utd”, a largely fictional book based on the author’s interpretation of Brian Clough’s ill-fated tenure as football manager of Leeds United in 1974. The problem with this sort of film is that if you don´t know the main character (his way of talking, his manners, his persona etc) that is based on a real person, in this case Brian Clough, you have no idea how well Michael Sheen actually portrays Brian Clough, and then the movie lose a lot for you as a viewer. I do know of Brian Clough, but I have no real insight in his persona. Nevertheless, Michael Sheen does portray Clough´s rampant narcissism and hubris in a very believable way and he doesn´t come off as a very likeable person. Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four, and praised Sheen for portraying “modern British icons so uncannily that he’s all but disappeared into them”. We get to see the roughness on the football pitch of the 70s, which is quite interesting and you realise that this would never fly today. There would be red cards in every struggle for the ball. “The Damned United” is well made with an interesting storyline, then again you can´t help to question the events that happens in the movie since you have no idea how much creative and dramatic freedom the director and producer has taken. Prior to its release, Clough’s widow Barbara, already a critic of Peace’s book, expressed disappointment that the film was being made at all. The Clough family declined an invitation to a preview of the film, affirming their opposition to the entire project. Clough’s son Nigel said he did not intend to watch the film and that those in football who had seen it had told him it bore “no resemblance” to what actually happened. Sony’s decision to release the film six days after what would have been Clough’s 74th birthday was also criticised. Producer Andy Harries responded to the Clough family’s criticisms by stating that “The filmmakers” goal is to tell a wonderful and extraordinary story with universal themes of success, jealousy and betrayal”. Harries added that without adding fictional elements the film would not have been as exciting to watch. He also reassured Clough’s family that the film would be a more sympathetic portrayal of Clough than in the book. Writer Peter Morgan claimed that he did not feel the film’s accuracy was of major importance. Dave Mackay sued Left Bank Pictures over his portrayal in the film, angered at the implication that he had betrayed Clough in taking the Derby manager’s job. In March 2010, Mackay won an apology and undisclosed damages from Left Bank Pictures. Roy McFarland agreed with Mackay’s decision to take legal action and said that he enjoyed Sheen’s performance, but otherwise “did not particularly like the film”. Martin O’Neill, who played for Clough at Nottingham Forest, questioned the portrayal of the relationship between Clough and Peter Taylor. He praised the performance of the actors, however, particularly that of Sheen. BBC Sport journalist Pat Murphy, a personal friend of Clough, noted 17 factual inaccuracies in the film, including various errors regarding the timing of events. He also dismissed as “absolute nonsense” a scene where Clough stays in the Derby dressing room during a match against Leeds, too nervous to watch. (3 and a half out of 5)

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