Old Trafford (capacity 75,635) is our home – the home of Manchester United – and was first called “The Theatre of Dreams” by United legend Sir Bobby Charlton. It is the second-largest football stadium in the United Kingdom after Wembley Stadium in London.
History and Description.
In the first decade of the 20th century, Manchester United played their home matches at a 50,000-stadium at Bank Street, when then president John Henry Davies began planning for a new stadium with double that capacity. A site was chosen near Trafford Park industrial estate, and architect Archibald Leitch was appointed to design the stadium.
Old Trafford officially opened on the 19th of February 1910 with a match between Manchester and Liverpool (3-4). The stadium at that time consisted of one covered seating stand and open terraces on the other three sides. Capacity was slightly over 80,000. Few changes were made to the stadium until the construction of a roof over the United Road terrace in 1934.
In 1939, Old Trafford recorded its highest attendance of 76,962 during an FA Cup semi-final match between Wolves and Grimsby Town. Due to its proximity to Trafford Park industrial estate, Old Trafford got heavily damaged by German air raids during World War 2. It took eight years to rebuilt the stadium, the delays being caused by limited post-war resources, and during that time United played at Maine Road, the ground of rivals Manchester City.In 1949, Manchester United moved back to a reconstructed, though smaller, Old Trafford. Incremental improvements and expansions were made in the following decades, which culminated in the complete renovation of the United Road (North) Stand in the 1960s. This stand also held the first private boxes to be constructed at a British ground. Old Trafford was one of the playing venues of the 1966 World Cup, during which it hosted three group matches. In those years, the capacity of the stadium fluctuated around 60,000.
Old Trafford got gradually further improved in the 1970s and 1980s, including new and better cover, increased seating areas, and improved executive facilities. At the same time, however, the rise of hooliganism also resulted in the installation of security fences separating the stands from the pitch. In the early 1990s, plans were made to convert the stadium into an all-seater. This involved the demolition and replacement of the famous Stretford End terraces and the placement of seats in the lower-tiers of the other stands. Old Trafford got selected to be one of the playing venues of the 1996 European Championships, and as a result a new North Stand opened in 1995.
In the years following, second tiers were added to the East and West Stand, raising capacity to 68,000 seats. In 2006, the stadium reached its current capacity when stands got built in the upper-tier corners on both sides of the North Stand. Old Trafford hosted its only European final in 2003, when the Champions League final between Milan and Juventus (0-0) was played at the stadium.I n 2011, the stadium’s North Stand got renamed Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in honour of the club’s long-time manager.Old Trafford’s South Stand remains the only two-tiered stand of the stadium, but expansion possibilities are limited due to the railway line that runs behind the stand.
The Old Trafford pitch is surrounded by four covered all-seater stands, officially known as the Sir Alex Ferguson (North), East, South and West Stands. Each stand has at least two tiers, with the exception of the South Stand, which only has one tier due to construction restrictions. The lower tier of each stand is split into Lower and Upper sections, the Lower sections having been converted from terracing in the early 1990s.
The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, formerly known as the United Road stand and the North Stand, runs over the top of United Road. The stand is three tiers tall, and can hold about 26,000 spectators, the most of the four stands. It can also accommodate a few fans in executive boxes and hospitality suites. It opened in its current state in 1996, having previously been a single-tiered stand. As the ground’s main stand, it houses many of the ground’s more popular facilities, including the Red Café (a Manchester United theme restaurant/bar) and the Manchester United museum and trophy room. Originally opened in 1986 as the first of its kind in the world, the Manchester United Museum was in the south-east corner of the ground until it moved to the redeveloped North Stand in 1998. The museum was opened by Pelé on 11 April 1998, since when numbers of visitors have jumped from 192,000 in 1998 to more than 300,000 visitors in 2009.
The North Stand was renamed as the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand on 5 November 2011, in honour of Alex Ferguson‘s 25 years as manager of the club. A 9-foot (2.7 m) statue of Ferguson, sculpted by Philip Jackson, was erected outside the stand on 23 November 2012 in recognition of his status as Manchester United’s longest-serving manager.
The South Stand.
Opposite the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand is the South Stand, formerly Old Trafford’s main stand. Although only a single-tiered stand, the South Stand contains most of the ground’s executive suites, and also plays host to any VIPs who may come to watch the match. Members of the media are seated in the middle of the Upper South Stand to give them the best view of the match. The television gantry is also in the South Stand, so the South Stand is the one that gets shown on television least often. Television studios are located at either end of the South Stand, with the club’s in-house television station, MUTV, in the East studio and other television stations, such as the BBC and Sky, in the West studio. The dugout is in the centre of the South Stand, raised above pitch level to give the manager and his coaches an elevated view of the game. Each team’s dugout flanks the old players’ tunnel, which was used until 1993. On 6th February 2008, the tunnel was renamed the Munich Tunnel, as a memorial for the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Munich air disaster. The current tunnel is in the South-West corner of the ground, and doubles as an entrance for the emergency services. In the event that large vehicles require access, the seating above the tunnel can be raised by up to 25 feet (7.6 m). The tunnel leads up to the players’ dressing room, via the television interview area, and the players’ lounge.
The West Stand.
Perhaps the best-known stand at Old Trafford is the West Stand, also known as the Stretford End. Traditionally, the stand is where the hard-core United fans are located, and also the ones who make the most noise. Originally designed to hold 20,000 fans, the Stretford End was the last stand to be covered and also the last remaining all-terraced stand at the ground before the forced upgrade to seating in the early 1990s. The reconstruction of the Stretford End, which took place during the1992–93 season, was carried out by Alfred McAlpine. When the second tier was added to the Stretford End in 2000, many fans from the old “K Stand” moved there, and decided to hang banners and flags from the barrier at the front of the tier. So ingrained in Manchester United culture is the Stretford End, that Denis Law was given the nickname “King of the Stretford End”, and there is now a statue of Law on the concourse of the stand’s upper tier.
The East Stand.
The East Stand at Old Trafford was the second to be converted to a cantilever roof, following the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. It is also commonly referred to as the Scoreboard End, as it was the location of the scoreboard. The East Stand can currently hold nearly 12,000 fans, and is the location of both the disabled fans section and the away section; an experiment involving the relocation of away fans to the third tier of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand was conducted during the 2011–12 season, but the results of the experiments could not be ascertained in time to make the move permanent for the 2012–13 season. The disabled section provides for up to 170 fans, with free seats for carers. Old Trafford was formerly divided into sections, with each section sequentially assigned a letter of the alphabet. Although every section had a letter, it is the K Stand that is the most commonly referred to today. The K Stand fans were renowned for their vocal support for the club, and a large array of chants and songs, though many of them have relocated to the second tier of the West Stand.
The East Stand has a tinted glass façade, behind which the club’s administrative centre is located. These offices are the home to the staff of Inside United, the official Manchester United magazine, the club’s official website, and its other administrative departments. Images and advertisements are often emblazoned on the front of the East Stand, most often advertising Nike products, though a tribute to the Busby Babes was displayed in February 2008 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster. Above the megastore is a statue of Sir Matt Busby, who was Manchester United’s longest-serving manager until he was surpassed by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2010. There is also a plaque dedicated to the victims of the Munich air disaster on the south end of the East Stand, while the Munich Clock is at the junction of the East and South Stands. On 29 May 2008, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Manchester United’s first European Cup title, a statue of the club’s “holy trinity” of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, entitled “The United Trinity”, was unveiled across Sir Matt Busby Way from the East Stand, directly opposite the statue of Busby.
The Manchester United club shop has had six different locations since it was first opened. Originally, the shop was a small hut near to the railway line that runs alongside the ground. The shop was then moved along the length of the South Stand, stopping first opposite where away fans enter the ground, and then residing in the building that would later become the club’s merchandising office. A surge in the club’s popularity in the early 1990s led to another move, this time to the forecourt of the West Stand. With this move came a great expansion and the conversion from a small shop to a “megastore”. Alex Ferguson opened the new megastore on 3 December 1994. The most recent moves came in the late 1990s, as the West Stand required room to expand to a second tier, and that meant the demolition of the megastore. The store was moved to a temporary site opposite the East Stand, before taking up a 17,000 square feet (1,600 m2) permanent residence in the ground floor of the expanded East Stand in 2000.
Pitch and surroundings.
The pitch at the ground measures approximately 105 metres (115 yd) long by 68 metres (74 yd) wide, with a few metres of run-off space on each side. The centre of the pitch is about nine inches higher than the edges, allowing surface water to run off more easily. As at many modern grounds, 10 inches (25 cm) under the pitch is an underground heating system, composed of 23 miles (37 km) of plastic pipes. Former club manager Alex Ferguson often requested that the pitch be relaid, most notably half-way through the 1998–99 season, when the team won the Treble, at a cost of about £250,000 each time. The grass at Old Trafford is watered regularly, though less on wet days, and mowed three times a week between April and November, and once a week from November to March.
The Future of Old Trafford.
Manchester United continue to harbour plans to increase the capacity of the stadium further, with the next stage pointing to a redevelopment of the South Stand, which, unlike the rest of the stadium, remains single tier. A replication of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand development and North-East and -West Quadrants would see the stadium’s capacity rise to an estimated 95,000, which would give it a greater capacity than Wembley Stadium (90,000). Any such development is likely to cost around £100m, due to the proximity of the railway line that runs adjacent to the stadium, and the corresponding need to build over it and thus purchase up to 50 houses on the other side of the railway.
Nevertheless, the Manchester United group property manager confirmed that expansion plans are in the pipeline – linked to profits made from the club’s property holdings around Manchester – saying “There is a strategic plan for the stadium … It is not our intention to stand still”. One criticism of the plans, however, is that increasing the height of the South Stand would further reduce the amount of light coming onto the pitch, which has caused problems in similarly large stadia – such as Wembley Stadium, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and the San Siro. It has been suggested that, should such an expansion take place, Old Trafford could be used instead of Wembley for big matches such as England internationals – in order to increase the ability of fans in the north of the country to watch England play; and FA Cup semi-finals – to maintain the prestige of the national stadium for the final.
Old Trafford is located just over 2 miles south-west from Manchester’s city centre and just under 3 miles from Manchester Piccadilly Station. If arriving by car from the M60, take junction 7&8 and turn onto Chester Road (A56) northbound. Follow Chester Road for about 2 miles and turn left onto Sir Matt Busby Way (access closed on matchdays).
If using public transport, the stadium is best reached by Metrolink overground metro. From Piccadilly Station it is a 15-minute journey to Old Trafford station, which lies a 5-minute walk away from the stadium.On matchdays a special train service is provided from most Manchester city centre stations to Old Trafford Stadium rail station.