Book Review: Manchester United in Tears by J. Paul Harrison
The Munich Air Disaster that took place on 6 February 1958 will forever be part of the history of Manchester United and in the period since the tragic event, it has been covered in documentaries, TV dramas, music and most especially in books.
Manchester United in Tears by J. Paul Harrison (published by Austin Macauley) is the latest addition to hit the shelves. Harrison’s approach to the oft covered subject is to undertake the “story of this eventful season…on a day by day, match by match basis, providing a fascinating insight into the world of football in the 1950s.” There is no doubt that the book covers the season on a linear basis, with the emphasis on the games and events surrounding the Manchester United first team, the reserves and its youth team, during the 1957/58 campaign. This is a credit to the author and the research carried out to provide such a detailed picture.
However, in reading the book it feels as though it is stretching a point to say that it provides “a fascinating insight”. There are some interesting details, such as the fact that players like Bobby Charlton, who whilst being first team players at Old Trafford, were also turning out to play in the Armed Services representative games throughout the season. Yet the nature of match reports, followed by results, whilst informative, is rather dry and as a result unfortunately struggles to convey or indeed take the reader, “back to that black and white era…when football was still fun.”
Then, after all the detail that the book delivers from Harrison, it ends in an abrupt way with a one-page piece of conjecture about United’s fortunes if the crash hadn’t happened and which frankly adds nothing to the story. The overriding feeling is that this book attempts to do too much, in trying to focus on the context of the Club during the season, the disaster and the wider view of football in the 1950s, but yet doesn’t achieve any of these strands fully.