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  • Sander Kolsloot

Old Trafford - Manchester United

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Old Trafford Sir Matt Busby Way Manchester, England M16 0RA United Kingdom

Year Opened: 1910 Capacity: 75,957


The Theatre of Dreams

Originally featured 10/19/2019

Manchester United has not always been united. Before 1902, Manchester United was known as Newton Heath, and in 1902, following the club’s rescue as they faced bankruptcy the club was renamed Manchester United. At that time it had spent its first years at mediocre grounds, with dirt pitches not suitable for good football. After this the new chairman John Henry Davies decided in 1909 that something had to change, as the current Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had enjoyed recent success, winning the First Division and FA Cup. The chairman donated funds for the construction of a new stadium and after a rigorous search, he found a patch of land adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal in Old Trafford.

Designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, who designed amongst others Anfield, Goodison Park, Craven Cottage, and Hampden Park, the ground was originally designed with a capacity of 100,000 spectators and featured seating in the south stand undercover, while the remaining three stands were left as terraces and uncovered.

Building costs rose quickly and were getting out of hand, forcing the club to tune down the capacity of the stadium to approximately 80,000 spectators. Even at that time, United had already been touted as Moneybag United, due to the takeover by Davies and his big spending. Development was completed in late 1909. The stadium hosted its inaugural game on 19 February 1910, with United playing archrival Liverpool.

Originally, a station was designed to be constructed in conjunction with the stadium, but due to problems with Davies, it took them till 1935 before Trafford Park station (later named Old Trafford football ground) was opened. In the early years, Old Trafford played host to several FA Cup Finals (during that time, Wembley Stadium was still in the planning and construction phase) and it saw its first (and definitely not last) international match, as England lost to Scotland on April 17, 1926. Wartime bombing

In 1936, as part of a £35,000 refurbishment, an 80-yard long roof was added to the United Road stand (now the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand) for the first time, while roofs were added to the south corners in 1938. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Old Trafford was requisitioned by the military to be used as a depot. Football continued to be played at the stadium, but a German bombing raid on Trafford Park on 22 December 1940 damaged the stadium to the extent that a Christmas day fixture against Stockport County had to be switched to Stockport’s ground.

Football resumed at Old Trafford on 8 March 1941, but another German raid on 11 March 1941 destroyed much of the stadium. It took quite some time, effort, and money to reopen the ground, which eventually took place in 1949. Though Old Trafford was reopened, albeit without cover, in 1949, United’s first game back at Old Trafford was played on 24 August 1949, as 41,748 spectators witnessed a 3–0 victory over Bolton Wanderers.

In the 1950s, the refurbishing and extension of Old Trafford continued, as a roof was restored to the Main Stand by 1951 and, soon after, the three remaining stands were covered as floodlighting was installed during the same period. The inaugural floodlight match was between Bolton Wanderers and the home team, on March 25, 1957.

The East Stand – the only remaining uncovered stand – was developed in the same style in 1973. With the first two stands converted by cantilevers, the club’s owners devised a long-term plan to do the same to the other two stands and convert the stadium into a bowl-like arena. Such a construction would increase the atmosphere at the ground by containing the crowd’s noise, while also focusing it onto the pitch, where the players would feel the full effects of a capacity crowd.

After the completion of the roof, the replacement of the old manual scoreboard with an electronic one in the northeast corner took place. The southeast quadrant was then removed and replaced in 1985 with a seated section bringing the total seating capacity of the stadium to 25,686 (56,385 overall). The completion of the cantilever roof around three sides of the stadium allowed for the replacement of the old floodlight pylons, and the attachment of a row of floodlights around the inner rim of the roof in 1987.

Due to all the refurbishments, the upgrades, and the new rules of 1991 (after the Hillsborough disaster and the subsequent Taylor Report), the capacity of Old Trafford was dropped to an all-time low of 44,000. Luckily, Sir Alex Ferguson took over as manager and this ignited years of success for the Mancunians. Several renovation plans were put into effect, with three stages. Firstly, the tiers of the Stretford End were increased. Secondly, the East stand got a second-tier and after that the West stand followed, raising the capacity to over 68,000 at that moment. Between 2005 and 2006 the latest extension took the capacity to the current level, adding second tiers to the northwest and northeast corners of the stadium.

After all the renovations, the stadium is now at a whopping 75,635 capacity, making it the second biggest ground in England after Wembley Stadium. Every spot of the stadium has a splendid view of the field, which is unique, compared to other, more old fashioned stadiums such as Everton’s Goodison Park. The stadium is an icon in the English Premier League, drawing a lot of attention not only locally but especially from people all around the world. The nickname was coined by Sir Bobby Charlton and it is nicely used in marketing efforts (especially when Sharp was the team’s shirt sponsor).

The Red Devils announced in August 2019 upgrades to the venerable grounds that will include an “atmosphere section” for up to 1,200 spectators in the Stretford End first tier that will also include upgraded food and beverage options and more kiosks. There also be upgrades to the VIP and several hospitality suites along with additional wheelchair and amenity suites across all four quadrants of the stadium.

Food & Beverage 3

The food and beverage section in most parts of the stadium is rather standard. Please note that if you fancy an alcoholic beverage, you are only allowed to enjoy it on the concourse, with no view of the pitch. They cater to the need to watch the game with screens, but if you like watching the game on the telly, you’d be better off heading to a bar. Snack and drink combos are on offer as well. Be prepared to spend a fair amount of money if you want to quench your thirst and leave with a full belly.

The selection of food is divided into hot and cold options, with a hot dog changing hands for a total of £5. United branded sausage rolls are £4.50 and a pie can be had for £4, with a choice of meat, steak, chicken or cheese, and onion. Cold options are grab bags such as Skittles or Maltesers, or Mars bars. Some chips are on offer as well, the former going for £3.50and the Mars bar for £1.50. Hefty prices.

Drinks are on offer for £4.50 a beer or ale, £4.80 for wine, and sodas for £2.90. Prices are comparable to the ones at Arsenal for example. They do have offers: 3 items for £7.50 and 6 items for £13.T The hot items consist of meat and potato pies, United pie, chicken balti pie, cheese, and onion pasty, or a hot dog. The snack is usually a sweet such as crisps, Yorkie bar, or a Kit Kat and the drinks are of the Coca-Cola variety or a Heineken, John Smith’s, or Bulmer’s

Atmosphere 5

Although the Old Trafford itself oozes atmosphere, with the large stands, unobstructed views, and closeness of the seats to the pitch, the people negate it quickly. When the singing starts, finally, (Glory Glory Man United for example) half the crowd is still quiet, which is a pity. If you visit the games against bitter rivals Liverpool or city neighbours Manchester City it will be more lively and intense.

Old Trafford is a 75,000-seater stadium that was once hailed as the top stadium in English Football but has remained relatively unchanged the past decade. Those are due to several factors detailed earlier on this website. The grounds due provide comfort and a modern style that fans have come to expect for match day. The Theater of Dreams is made up of four stands that differ in ambiance and aesthetics.

The Sir Alex Ferguson stand is three-tiers high and can accommodate up to 26,000 people; it is the largest of the four in the building. The Sir Bobby Charlton Stand is home to VIP guests and houses executive suites. The West End, also known as the Stretford End, is where 14,000 of the United’s most loyal fans reside during the match. The East End is uncovered and is where both away and disabled supporters are found during the game. The stand offers 13,000 seats and a plaque at Old Trafford honoring the victims of the Munich air disaster.

Outside of the stadium includes statues and sculptures that add vibrancy to the complex. The United Trinity, a statue of Manchester United’s “holy trinity” of George Best, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton. The Hublot clock tower is located in Old Trafford’s car park E1 and The statue of Sir Matt Busby overlooks the East Stand.

Neighborhood 3

Old Trafford is not actually located in Manchester, but in neighbouring Salford to the northwest side of the city. All the best entertainment is located in Manchester city centre. The area around Old Trafford is part industrial, part residential. There’s a hotel, part-owned by former United legend Gary Neville, conveniently located next to the stadium and there are some bars and food shops, although the quality of the food is rather lacklustre.

You can grab a pre-match drink in The Bishop Blaize or at The Trafford. Otherwise, the neighbourhood is one to forget quickly. Go to the city centre for the best experience in Manchester. The Tollgate is a 10-minute walk and is also considered an ultimate pre-match pub, bustling with fans and a friendly atmosphere. Sam Platt’s is 150 meters from the stadium and Old Trafford Supporters Club is £1 to enter but might be worth the small price for the atmosphere.

Hotel Football is an upscale-themed hotel that overlooks Old Trafford and features 133 rooms, a restaurant, a 750-capacity basement bar, and a five-a-side football pitch on its roof. The £24 million hotel is owned by former Red Devil players and is planned to be a chain of football-themed hotels located near football grounds around the world.

While in town, The National Football Museum is England’s national museum of football. It is located in Manchester city centre, and preserves conserve and display important collections of football memorabilia. City residents are allowed in for free but will cost £10 for all other adults and £5 for children 5-15. The Science and Industry Museum is devoted to the development of science, technology, and industry with an emphasis on the city’s achievements in these fields.

Fans 4

Manchester has seen a huge spike in popularity, not only in England but very much across the world. Especially since the Sir Alex Ferguson era, the club has become a brand, much more than just a football club. While this has been extremely useful for business, it has not been very positive for the fans. Ticket prices have skyrocketed, and with the popularity of the ‘Man United’ brand, it has become more of a night out to go to Old Trafford.

It means that the old core of fans, who grew up with the legend of the Busby Babes, have largely abandoned the club. Even more so, a big group of fans was so dissatisfied with the big money, they created a totally new club, FC United of Manchester, which is slowly rising through the ranks of English club football. The fans that go to the game now include many tourists. You will see a large crowd of people from Asia, Russia, mainland Europe, and other countries further afield. The involvement of the fans is therefore less than before. Prepare for selfie-sticks galore in the stands.

Access 5

Getting to the ground is fairly easy. The opposing club supporters even walked to the ground from the city centre, which is still quite a hike. Otherwise, bus, metro, and train services stop close to the ground and once you are there, access is easy. If you take the train, stop at the Manchester United football ground stop. There is also the Trafford Bar, Exchange Quay, and Mediacity UK that are with a 10-minute walk to the stadium

Buses 255, 256, and 263 stop close to the ground as well. There are separate spaces for people in wheelchairs, who enjoy quite some space, in contrast to the normal seats that are somewhat limited, especially if you are over 6’3. The train might be the best way to arrive at the game from Manchester Piccadilly train station. The Metrolink is a 10-minute walk to the grounds offering unlimited day passes for £5.

If you are driving by car certain streets near the stadium are closed off and it is advised to arrive early, parking lots charge £10 per car. There is an Uber Ride Zone pickup point located in the E3 car park, by the East Stand of the stadium. You can also select a barge to arrive at Old Trafford as both the Manchester Ship Canal and Bridgewater Canal.

Return on Investment 4

Adult tickets, if you are an official member of the club for a £20 annual fee, can range from listed a listed price of £36-£50, but could increase due to availability and depending on the opponent. As with many other major clubs in the EPL, plan well ahead since tickets against cross-town rival Manchester City will sell out quickly. Reduced price tickets are normally available for youths, 18 to 20-year-olds, and seniors (youths and seniors enjoy half price tickets). If you plan on arriving by car, some lots charge £10 per car.

Old Trafford is among the best pitches in English Football and people from all over the world visit the stadium to watch a game. Just like with other iconic buildings, expect to play slighter higher for that adventure since it could be a once in a lifetime experience for visitors. A United v City clash would be quite a match to witness, but high in price. Other matches against non-rivals would help reduce the cost in price.

Extras 5

At least one thing in Manchester is top of the bill: the extras. You have plenty to choose from. Start with a visit to the humongous official store, with a wide array of merchandise, ranging from shirts to toilet paper and other things you can’t even imagine. Then take a stadium tour, which will also take you to the United Museum, stacked with memorabilia from the storied franchise. You can even take photos with the silverware that’s on display. The magical stadium tour will take you to all the great places such as the dressing rooms and the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. There are also ‘legends tours’ on offer, where tours are conducted by former United greats.

The museum and stadium tours aren’t available on matchdays. Tickets are £18 and £12 for kids. A family of four will pay £54 in total. Around the stadium, you will find several memorials including one dedicated to Sir Matt Busby, a plaque to honor the victims of the Munich plane crash (including eight ‘Busby Babes,’ who tragically died in the disaster), and a statue of Sir Alex Ferguson, erected in 2012.

Final Thoughts

The inevitable deluge of money into the English Premier League has seen clubs chase profits, none more so than the Glazer family-owned Manchester United, who have proven quite adept at squeezing every penny out of the operation. Given the debt they incurred to afford the purchase of the club a decade ago, it is understandable from a business aspect but has affected the matchday experience significantly. However, it is still one of the iconic English grounds to visit and is a must-see venue in itself.

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