Old Trafford is one of the most famous and iconic stadiums in the world. It is home to Manchester United, which is arguably the biggest football club on the planet.
Over the years it has been an integral location in the most popular sport on the planet, hosting various huge scale competitions.
With a capacity of 74,140, Old Trafford is the second-largest stadium in the UK after Wembley. In terms of football club home grounds, it is actually the largest. Due to boasting such a huge fan base, it is no surprise that Old Trafford holds this record.
But does Old Trafford need an expansion? Recent reports reveal that Manchester United is planning to “modernize” the stadium by using £20M, though it’s not entirely clear what this means just yet.
Fans have complained about certain conditions within the ground for a few years now, so perhaps this could be a good thing.
The real question is whether or not an expansion would be a good thing to include within the plans. It could have negative effects on the surrounding areas, so this is something that really needs to be weighed up.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at key factors surrounding the issue. First, let’s take a look at the history of Old Trafford and how it came to be such an important part of our footballing heritage.
Before 1902, Manchester United played as Newton Heath. At this time, they would compete at North Road and Bank Street in Clayton. These grounds were pretty bad and often suffered from weather damage, as well as fumes from the factories nearby.
Around this time, the club was struggling with bankruptcy. After being saved and renamed, their new chairman John Henry Davies decided that these grounds simply weren’t good enough for a football club that wanted to be successful.
He looked for suitable areas and settled on some land near Bridgewater Canal in Old Trafford. And that’s where it all began.
The stadium opened its doors on 19th February 1910, hosting what has since become one of the most iconic fixtures in football: Manchester United VS Liverpool. Unfortunately, United lost this fixture 4-3.
Spectators at the time were impressed by Old Trafford, with one journalist saying of it that it was “the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world”.
Over the years, the stadium hosted numerous FA Cup finals and various sporting events that fit the above description. Manchester United had varying success throughout the 20th century but was easily one of the biggest clubs in England.
Once Alex Ferguson took over, things changed for good. Manchester United is currently the most successful club in English football and a true powerhouse.
Although things haven’t been going to plan for them later with the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club is still a coveted destination for all aspiring players.
Due to their global appeal, there is always a demand for stadium expansion to allow more fans to attend the matches, but this comes with its own hotbed of issues.
Simply improving the facilities that need it wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, it would be welcomed by the fans who attend the game regularly. However, an expansion could displease many.
An adjacent railway line is one of the main roadblocks. If building work were to go on within the area, this could cause some serious disruption to ordinary life. Residents within the area and people commuting to and from work would undoubtedly be affected.
And realistically, does the stadium actually need an expansion? It is already the largest home ground in the country and many would argue that more than enough people are able to attend the games.
The owners of Manchester United have fallen under some serious criticism in recent years, especially after the “European Super League” debacle of a few months ago.
Their quest to increase the revenue and brand of Manchester United is seemingly at odds with the desire of the fanbase as a whole.
Alongside this, many of their signings and appointments in recent years have been head-scratchers. It seems as though the Glazers know very little about what it takes to make Manchester United trophy winners again, and are more concerned with flashy money-making actions.
This led to a large portion of the fan base losing faith in their competency, so it’s easy to understand why some people are concerned with the upcoming stadium plans.
United is currently in a state of flux, so it is likely that the stadium itself will fade out of focus for many fans. After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked, it is fair to say a sense of disappointment is felt around the club.
Solskjaer loves the club deeply, and the fans love him. Unfortunately, the fairytale simply wasn’t meant to be, and now the club searches once again for the right person to take them forward to glory.
Many would suggest that Antonio Conte would have been the perfect appointment, and by acting too late Manchester United has missed out on a huge opportunity.
As it stands, Michael Carrick is standing in as interim manager until a replacement can be found. If things keep heading in this direction, will the increased demand for seats continue to grow? Or will we see Manchester United begin to decline in our lifetime?
One thing is certain, the club needs to find someone with a clear plan, and they need to do it fast. The team has a number of tough games approaching and must fight hard to rejoin the battle for the top four. The Champions League may still be within reach.