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England Stadiums

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Old Trafford

1910
England
Manchester
Old Trafford Photo

Old Trafford

75,957
105m × 68m
Manchester United
Old Trafford Panorama

Old Trafford Satellite Image

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Old Trafford Info and History

Old Trafford is a football stadium in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, and the home of Manchester United. With a capacity of 75,765, Old Trafford is the second-largest football stadium in England after Wembley, the third-largest in the United Kingdom and the eleventh-largest in Europe. The stadium is approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from Old Trafford Cricket Ground and the adjacent tram station.

The ground, nicknamed the Theatre of Dreams by Bobby Charlton, has been United's permanent residence since 1910, with the exception of an eight-year absence from 1941 to 1949, following the bombing of the stadium during the Second World War. During this period, the club shared Maine Road with local rivals Manchester City. The ground underwent several expansions in the 1990s and 2000s, including the addition of extra tiers to the North, West and East Stands, which served to return the ground almost to its original capacity of 80,000. Future expansion is likely to involve the addition of a second tier to the South Stand, which would raise the capacity to over 90,000. The stadium's record attendance was recorded in 1939, when 76,962 spectators watched the FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town.

The ground has frequently hosted FA Cup semi-final matches as a neutral venue and several England international fixtures while the new Wembley Stadium was under construction. It also hosted matches at the 1966 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 1996, as well as the 2003 UEFA Champions League Final. Aside from football-related uses, Old Trafford has hosted rugby league's Super League Grand Final since the league's adoption of playoffs in 1998 and the final of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup. The stadium hosted football matches during the 2012 Summer Olympics, including women's international football for the first time in its history.

History

Construction and early years

Before 1902, Manchester United were known as Newton Heath, during which time they first played their football matches at North Road and then Bank Street in Clayton. However, both grounds were blighted by wretched conditions, the pitches ranging from gravel to marsh, while Bank Street suffered from clouds of fumes from its neighbouring factories. Therefore, following the club's rescue from near-bankruptcy and renaming, the new chairman John Henry Davies decided in 1909 that the Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had recently won the First Division and FA Cup, so he donated funds for the construction of a new stadium. Not one to spend money frivolously, Davies scouted around Manchester for an appropriate site, before settling on a patch of land adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal, just off the north end of the Warwick Road in Old Trafford.

Designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, who designed several other stadia, the ground was originally designed with a capacity of 100,000 spectators and featured seating in the south stand under cover, while the remaining three stands were left as terraces and uncovered. Including the purchase of the land, the construction of the stadium was originally to have cost £60,000 all told. However, as costs began to rise, to reach the intended capacity would have cost an extra £30,000 over the original estimate and, at the suggestion of club secretary J. J. Bentley, the capacity was reduced to approximately 80,000. Nevertheless, at a time when transfer fees were still around the £1,000 mark, the cost of construction only served to reinforce the club's "Moneybags United" epithet, with which they had been tarred since Davies had taken over as chairman.

In May 1908, Archibald Leitch wrote to the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) – who had a rail depot adjacent to the proposed site for the football ground – in an attempt to persuade them to subsidise construction of the grandstand alongside the railway line. The subsidy would have come to the sum of £10,000, to be paid back at the rate of £2,000 per annum for five years or half of the gate receipts for the grandstand each year until the loan was repaid. However, despite guarantees for the loan coming from the club itself and two local breweries, both chaired by club chairman John Henry Davies, the Cheshire Lines Committee turned the proposal down. The CLC had planned to build a new station adjacent to the new stadium, with the promise of an anticipated £2,750 per annum in fares offsetting the £9,800 cost of building the station. The station – Trafford Park – was eventually built, but further down the line than originally planned. The CLC later constructed a modest station with one timber-built platform immediately adjacent to the stadium and this opened on 21 August 1935. It was initially named United Football Ground, but was renamed Old Trafford Football Ground in early 1936. It was served on match days only by a shuttle service of steam trains from Manchester Central railway station. It is currently known as Manchester United Football Ground.

Construction was carried out by Messrs Brameld and Smith of Manchester and development was completed in late 1909. The stadium hosted its inaugural game on 19 February 1910, with United playing host to Liverpool. However, the home side were unable to provide their fans with a win to mark the occasion, as Liverpool won 4–3. A journalist at the game reported the stadium as "the most handsomest [sic], the most spacious and the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester and the home of a team who can do wonders when they are so disposed".

Before the construction of Wembley Stadium in 1923, the FA Cup Final was hosted by a number of different grounds around England including Old Trafford. The first of these was the 1911 FA Cup Final replay between Bradford City and Newcastle United, after the original tie at Crystal Palace finished as a no-score draw after extra time. Bradford won 1–0, the goal scored by Jimmy Speirs, in a match watched by 58,000 people. The ground's second FA Cup Final was the 1915 final between Sheffield United and Chelsea. Sheffield United won the match 3–0 in front of nearly 50,000 spectators, most of whom were in the military, leading to the final being nicknamed "the Khaki Cup Final".[18] On 27 December 1920, Old Trafford played host to its largest pre-Second World War attendance for a United league match, as 70,504 spectators watched the Red Devils lose 3–1 to Aston Villa. The ground hosted its first international football match later that decade, when England lost 1–0 to Scotland in front of 49,429 spectators on 17 April 1926. Unusually, the record attendance at Old Trafford is not for a Manchester United home game. Instead, on 25 March 1939, 76,962 people watched an FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town.

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, notably the main stand (now the South Stand), forcing the club's operations to move to Cornbrook Cold Storage, owned by United chairman James W. Gibson. After pressure from Gibson, the War Damage Commission granted Manchester United £4,800 to remove the debris and £17,478 to rebuild the stands. During the reconstruction of the stadium, Manchester United played their "home" games at Maine Road, the home of their cross-town rivals, Manchester City, at a cost of £5,000 a year plus a percentage of the gate receipts. The club was now £15,000 in debt, not helped by the rental of Maine Road, and the Labour MP for Stoke, Ellis Smith, petitioned the Government to increase the club's compensation package, but it was in vain. Though Old Trafford was reopened, albeit without cover, in 1949, it meant that a league game had not been played at the stadium for nearly 10 years. 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.

Completion of the master plan

A roof was restored to the Main Stand by 1951 and, soon after, the three remaining stands were covered, the operation culminating with the addition of a roof to the Stretford End (now the West Stand) in 1959. The club also invested £40,000 in the installation of proper floodlighting, so that they would be able to use the stadium for the European games that were played in the late evening of weekdays, instead of having to play at Maine Road. In order to avoid obtrusive shadows being cast on the pitch, two sections of the Main Stand roof were cut away. The first match to be played under floodlights at Old Trafford was a First Division match between Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers on 25 March 1957.

However, although the spectators would now be able to see the players at night, they still suffered from the problem of obstructed views caused by the pillars that supported the roofs. With the 1966 FIFA World Cup fast approaching, this prompted the United directors to completely redesign the United Road (north) stand. The old roof pillars were replaced in 1965 with modern-style cantilevering on top of the roof, allowing every spectator a completely unobstructed view, while it was also expanded to hold 20,000 spectators (10,000 seated and 10,000 standing in front) at a cost of £350,000. The architects of the new stand, Mather and Nutter (now Atherden Fuller), rearranged the organisation of the stand to have terracing at the front, a larger seated area towards the back, and the first private boxes at a British football ground. The east stand – the only remaining uncovered stand – was developed in the same style in 1973. With the first two stands converted to 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 an undertaking would serve to increase the atmosphere within the ground by containing the crowd's noise and focusing it onto the pitch, where the players would feel the full effects of a capacity crowd. Meanwhile, the stadium hosted its third FA Cup Final, hosting 62,078 spectators for the replay of the 1970 final between Chelsea and Leeds United; Chelsea won the match 2–1. The ground also hosted the second leg of the 1968 Intercontinental Cup, which saw Estudiantes de La Plata win the cup after a 1–1 draw. The 1970s saw the dramatic rise of football hooliganism in Britain, and a knife-throwing incident in 1971 forcing the club to erect the country's first perimeter fence, restricting fans from the Old Trafford pitch.

1973 saw the completion of the roof around the circumference of the stadium, along with the addition of 5,500 seats to the Scoreboard End and the replacement of the old manual scoreboard with an electronic one in the north-east corner. Then, in 1975, a £3 million expansion was begun, starting with the addition of the Executive Suite to the Main Stand. The suite's restaurant overlooked the pitch, but the view was still obstructed by the roof pillars. Therefore, in kind with the roofs of the United Road Stand and the Scoreboard End, the Main Stand roof was replaced with a cantilever design. The Executive Suite and cantilever roof were then extended to the full length of the stand, allowing for the relocation of the club offices from the south-east corner to the Main Stand. The south-east 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.

Conversion to all-seater

With every subsequent improvement made to the ground since the Second World War, the capacity steadily declined. By the 1980s, the capacity had dropped from the original 80,000 to approximately 60,000. The capacity dropped still further in 1990, when the Taylor Report recommended, and the government demanded that all First and Second Division stadia be converted to all-seaters. This meant that £3–5 million plans to replace the Stretford End with a brand new stand with an all-standing terrace at the front and a cantilever roof to link with the rest of the ground had to be drastically altered. This forced redevelopment, including the removal of the terraces at the front of the other three stands, not only increased the cost to around £10 million, but also reduced the capacity of Old Trafford to an all-time low of around 44,000. In addition, the club was told in 1992 that they would only receive £1.4 million of a possible £2 million from the Football Trust to be put towards work related to the Taylor Report.

The club's resurgence in success and increase in popularity in the early 1990s ensured that further development would have to occur. In 1995, the 30-year-old North Stand was demolished and work quickly began on a new stand, to be ready in time for Old Trafford to host three group games, a quarter-final and a semi-final at Euro 96. The club purchased the Trafford Park trading estate, a 20-acre (81,000 m2) site on the other site of United Road, for £9.2 million in March 1995. Construction began in June 1995 and was completed by May 1996, with the first two of the three phases of the stand opening during the season. Designed by Atherden Fuller, with Hilstone Laurie as project and construction managers and Campbell Reith Hill as structural engineers, the new three-tiered stand cost a total of £18.65 million to build and had a capacity of about 25,500, raising the capacity of the entire ground to more than 55,000. The cantilever roof would also be the largest in Europe, measuring 58.5 m (192 ft) from the back wall to the front edge. Further success over the next few years guaranteed yet more development. First, a second tier was added to the East Stand. Opened in January 2000, the stadium's capacity was temporarily increased to about 61,000 until the opening of the West Stand's second tier, which added yet another 7,000 seats, bringing the capacity to 68,217. It was now not only the biggest club stadium in England but the biggest in all of the United Kingdom. Old Trafford hosted its first major European final three years later, playing host to the 2003 UEFA Champions League Final between Milan and Juventus.

From 2001 to 2007, following the demolition of the old Wembley Stadium, the England national football team was forced to play its games elsewhere. During that time, the team toured the country, playing their matches at various grounds from Villa Park in Birmingham to St James' Park in Newcastle. From 2003 to 2007, Old Trafford hosted 12 of England's 23 home matches, more than any other stadium. The latest international to be held at Old Trafford was England's 1–0 loss to Spain on 7 February 2007. The match was played in front of a crowd of 58,207.

2006 expansion

Old Trafford's most recent expansion, which took place between July 2005 and May 2006, saw an increase of around 8,000 seats with the addition of second tiers to both the north-west and north-east quadrants of the ground. Part of the new seating was used for the first time on 26 March 2006, when an attendance of 69,070 became a new Premier League record. The record continued to be pushed upwards before reaching its current peak on 31 March 2007, when 76,098 spectators saw United beat Blackburn Rovers 4–1, meaning that just 114 seats (0.15% of the total capacity of 76,212) were left unoccupied. In 2009, a reorganisation of the seating in the stadium resulted in a reduction of the capacity by 255 to 75,957, meaning that the club's home attendance record would stand at least until the next expansion.

Old Trafford celebrated its 100th anniversary on 19 February 2010. In recognition of the occasion, Manchester United's official website ran a feature in which a memorable moment from the stadium's history was highlighted on each of the 100 days leading up to the anniversary. From these 100 moments, the top 10 were chosen by a panel including club statistician Cliff Butler, journalist David Meek, and former players Pat Crerand and Wilf McGuinness. At Old Trafford itself, an art competition was run for pupils from three local schools to create their own depictions of the stadium in the past, present and future. Winning paintings were put on permanent display on the concourse of the Old Trafford family stand, and the winners will be presented with awards by artist Harold Riley on 22 February. An exhibition about the stadium at the club museum was opened by former goalkeeper Jack Crompton and chief executive David Gill on 19 February. The exhibition highlights the history of the stadium and features memorabilia from its past, including a programme from the inaugural match and a 1:220 scale model hand-built by model artist Peter Oldfield-Edwards. Finally, at Manchester United's home match against Fulham on 14 March, fans at the game received a replica copy of the programme from the first Old Trafford match, and half-time saw relatives of the players who took part in the first game – as well as those of the club chairman John Henry Davies and stadium architect Archibald Leitch – taking part in the burial of a time capsule of Manchester United memorabilia near the centre tunnel.[51] Only relatives of winger Billy Meredith, wing-half Dick Duckworth and club secretary Ernest Mangnall could not be found.

Old Trafford was used as a venue for several matches in the football competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics. The stadium hosted five group games, a quarter-final and a semi-final in the men's tournament, and one group game and a semi-final in the women's tournament, the first women's international matches to be played there.

 

Last Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2015

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