Manchester United and Disney in talks over multi-million-dollar documentaries deal

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Manchester United are in discussions with the U.S. entertainment platform Disney with a view to striking a multi-million-dollar deal to create documentaries about the club.

The Athletic has been told the production would focus on the club’s era of success under legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson, a 26-year period in which United won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies and five FA Cups.

The club and the Disney+ streaming service are in talks over a documentary over a proposal that would include substantial interview time with Ferguson, who is now aged 82. United would also provide access to club archive footage as well as insight from club ambassadors, such as former captain Bryan Robson and iconic goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who could help convey the secrets of United’s success under Ferguson. Both Ferguson and his former players would need to formally agree to the project, which remains in its conceptual stage. It is expected that United would retain editorial oversight of any project, as has been the case for many documentaries involving European football clubs.

A deal has not yet been finalised as United continue to hold out for improved terms. The current proposal is in the low seven figures and Disney’s offer made this year is lower than the terms the company originally offered United when they first engaged on the matter a couple of years ago. United are seeking to diversify their revenue streams as they seek to remain competitive at the top of the Premier League at the same time as clubs are striving to remain within the boundaries of Financial Fair Play regulations and embark on an ambitious stadium project.

Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service recently unveiled a trailer for a documentary specifically about Manchester United’s treble-winning campaign in the 1998-99 season, marking the 25th anniversary of the triumph this spring. This three-part docuseries, which will include access to Ferguson and members of the club’s famed Class of 92 generation, such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, was not negotiated with the club and United do not stand to directly benefit financially.

The Disney+ streaming service has previously captured the imagination of football fans across the world, particularly in the U.S., with its hugely successful series Welcome To Wrexham, which tracks the Welsh club’s rise up the ladder in English football under their Hollywood owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

Disney’s conversations with United have not extended to a proposal for live blow-by-blow access during a season and the club do not currently have plans for a more contemporary film that would allow supporters a peak behind the curtain. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have engaged with Amazon previously for the All or Nothing docuseries, while Liverpool are filming a documentary to follow the final months of Jurgen Klopp’s reign as manager.

When approached by The Athletic, Manchester United declined to comment and Disney did not respond.

(Top photo: Tom Purslow/Manchester United via Getty Images)

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