It’s time to revamp a very tired-looking Theatre of Dreams…

Old Trafford Man United

With the rain falling from the Manchester sky resembling a scene from Noah and his Ark, it was probably not the best time for Old Trafford, and in particular the corner of the Stretford End and Sir Alex Ferguson stand, to spring a leak.

Gallons and gallons of water poured down into the empty stadium, pre Manchester derby, leaving stewards to frantically begin a quick-fire mop up operation. The weather was a sign of things to come for United.

A disappointing 2-0 defeat to City would condemn United to their seventh loss in nine games. Startling contrast to the form at the turn of the year. But just like the current United squad, Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams, is also in need of some TLC.

Built in 1909, Old Trafford was opened for business a year later. Heavy bombing during the Second World War meant that United would have to play their home matches at neighbours, Manchester City’s, Maine Road ground.

The original capacity for the stadium was 80,000 people. This number would start to shrink with the rebuild. United would return to the Theatre of Dreams in 1949.

As the years went on and more of the stands became covered and then designed to have no pillars in view, the capacity would continue to decrease. In the aftermath from the tragedy of Hillsborough, the Taylor report meant that teams competing in the top two divisions ( division 1 and 2 then) , would be all seated stadia.

The Taylor report was an inquiry into the hillsborough disaster by a Lord Justice Taylor. He recommended that all major stadiums be converted to an all seater model so that anyone holding a ticket will have a designated seat instead of being obliged to stand.

This would see the demolition of the old Stretford End. A new shiny version would be in place by 1992-93. By this time though, capacity had dropped to nearly half its original state. 44,000 fans would now have the privilege of a complete four sided ground. No breaks in the stand for corners. Just a beautiful circumference of seating.

1995 would see the beginning of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. The old north stand ripped down and a new towering monster put in its place. This was partly due to Old Trafford being selected to host some of the Euro 96 games. At the time of completion, the SAF stand would be the largest cantilevered roof on a stadium in Europe. I am not sure if this is still the case. This, bringing the capacity to 55,000.

As United roared into the naughties, title after title followed. The board once again decided to expand. The east and west stands both had extra tiers erected. A thirst for season tickets and an ever growing waiting list would see more expansion. The final upgrade in around late 2005, would see the quadrants filled in. North east and west, both in keeping with the already majestic lay out, would bring Old Trafford to within its former glory. 76,000 seats, until a re-jig of disability and security meant that the capacity for this beautiful mecca like, palace, is now around 74,900.

The place needs a bit of a tidy up. Lick of paint here and there, some cosmetic surgery. United could easily do a Tottenham Hotspur and build right on top of the current stadium. Initially though, I would imagine that the Sir Bobby Charlton stand, would be built upon first. This would most likely add around another 10,000 seats.

A big summer all round then. Players coming and going, but maybe a change of scenery too.

Ole’s at the wheel!

About the Author

John McNicoll
Southern Red and Football enthusiast.