The Damned United is a sports-drama based partly on facts surrounding the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the outspoken but gifted football manager Brian Clough. We follow Glough (Michael Sheen) back and forth from the late 1960s to 1974 beginning with his and Assistant Manager Peter Taylor’s (Timothy Spall) triumph in taking lowly Derby County from the bottom of the second division to national champions. This remarkable feat is spliced with events several years later when in 1974 Clough, without Taylor as his Assistant, took over the job of managing Leeds Utd, then the dominant force in English football. Clough’s time in charge of the club was to last just 44 days and this film portrays what happened during that turbulent month and a half as well as the years that preceded it.
The accuracy of the film’s ‘facts’ is open for debate with family members and players who knew Clough claiming that the portrayal of events are inaccurate but what can’t be denied is that Michael Sheen pulls off yet another pitch perfect performance in a film that is a fascinating watch for a football fan and a great story for someone who is not.