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Old Trafford

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Action: Manchester United and occasional rugby league showcase games 
Location: on the edge of Trafford Park, the world's first industrial park, 2 km from Manchester city centre 
Opened: 19 February 1910 
Accommodation: 68,217 all-seated (largest club stadium in Britain) 
Information: Old Trafford today is effectively the third stadium Manchester United have built on the site (the first was bombed in 1941). The massive new North Stand's roof is the longest cantilevered structure in world at 58.5m from back to front. With a huge waiting list for tickets, United would like to expand the South Stand (the only part of the original stadium surviving) but even the mighty Reds baulk at the cost of building over the railway line thats runs behind. 
Simon says: Bobby Charlton dubbed it 'the theatre of dreams'. Critics call it 'Cold Trafford,' saying United fans lack passion. (Roy Keane famously called them 'the prawn sandwich brigade'.) As a neutral, I think that's nonsense. Matchdays at Old Trafford can be an awesome experience. The sheer bulk of the structures with their neon Manchester United signs create a real sense of occasion, as do the Munich memorial clock, the Busby statue and the superb club museum. Old Trafford is a major disappointment architecturally, however, especially the lack of wrap-round corner sections on the upper tiers. The lack of legroom is a pain too. With United's exalted status, and their resources, you expect real class and comfort. 
A fan's view: I started standing on the Stretford End when I was 13, in 1987. I'd get to the ground three hours before kick off and feel the noise build, and in those days United weren't even that successful and the ground was seldom full.
People blame the lack of atmosphere today on the fact that it's all-seater, but I don't agree with that. The atmosphere has improved a lot over the last three years, as has the stadium. I've taken friends along and they get blown away by the noise. There's a lot of originality in the songs too.
One mistake by the club was to turn a section of what used to be the Stretford End, once the vocal heartland of United's support, into an executive area. I have no problem with executive areas, they help to pay for the best players, and the club has since designated the upper level of that end into a 'singing section'. But I'd like them to make the whole Stretford End for ordinary fans.
Where I sit, at the opposite end, I'm surrounded by working class Mancunians [people from Manchester] who have sat there since the 1970s. It's not all fans from Surrey [a county in the affluent South-East of England] like some people think. And facilities for ordinary fans, like toilets and snack bars, are far superior at Old Trafford than they are at, say, the Bernabeu or San Siro.
So I think Old Trafford measures up well. It's a good, if not a great stadium. But then a lot of the new British grounds fall into that category. 
Andy Mitten (east stand, mid-level) is editor of the fanzine United We Stand. See



Simon Inglis, December 2003

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