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Address: Sir Matt Busby Way,
Capacity: 74,140 (All-Seater)
It does not matter if you are 6 or 60, the first time you see Old Trafford in the flesh, it takes your breath away.
The ground is a national landmark in itself, a stadium recognised across the globe, and home to one of the biggest football clubs in the World.
It is also the second biggest association football stadium in the United Kingdom, with only Wembley Stadium capable of holding more people.
Built in 1909, it has been the home of Manchester United Football Club since 1910, although the Red Devils did have to share Maine Road with rivals Manchester City between 1941 and 1949 after Old Trafford succumbed to bomb damage during the Second World War.
Ever since though, the Red Devils have played home matches here, and it has become known as ‘The Theatre of Dreams’, a nickname first used by club legend Sir Bobby Charlton.
Location and Getting There
Old Trafford is located roughly three miles southwest of Manchester City Centre. The city’s main cricket ground of the same name is around 0.5 miles to the south, with Salford Quays around one mile to the north.
You can reach the stadium for both matchdays and non-matchdays in a number of ways.
There are plenty of roads that lead to Old Trafford, but on a first-team matchday you can expect a good number of these to be closed off and even more to be very busy with traffic. Parking is available around the ground itself but is restricted and very difficult to secure a place at. Chances are if you do find decent parking, you are going to be some distance away from the stadium itself.
I have never visited Old Trafford for a Manchester United matchday by car, and never plan on.
The method you will find most people use to reach the stadium is by rail.
You should completely ignore the nearest train station to Old Trafford called ‘Manchester United Football Ground’. Since 2018, matchday services to and from this station no longer operate due to health and safety concerns, understandable when you consider the number of people who come here every game.
The most common way to reach the ground, and the one I personally use, is by taking the Manchester Metro service to the ‘Old Trafford’ stop. This drops you outside the Old Trafford Cricket Ground, not the Football Ground, but the walk from there is little more than 0.5 miles and along a straight road.
On the way there, you’ll pass the Bishop Blaize, part of the JD Wetherspoon chain which is always full of Manchester United supporters, as well as the Manchester United Foundation right before you enter the ground’s immediate vicinity.
Outside the Stadium
The outside of Old Trafford alone is like a museum. Every stand carries with it a part of the history of not only the club, but the city of Manchester itself.
My personal favourite area is the Munich tunnel, a tribute to the tragic accident that occurred on the 6th February 1958, resulting in the death of 20 people, including eight Manchester United players and three members of the club’s staff. The Munich tunnel runs along the outside of the South Stand, and includes a collection of plaques that detail the work of club legend Sir Matt Busby, his ‘Busby Babes’ team of superstars, the disaster itself, and the rebuilding of a team that would go on to win the European Cup just a decade later.
In February 1960, a clock was erected on one corner of the stand with the date of the tragedy marked on it. Many people believed that the clock was permanently stuck at 3:04, the time of the accident, but this is not actually true.
The South Stand itself is named after Sir Bobby Charlton. Born in Ashington on 11th October 1937, Charlton came through at Manchester United and played more than 750 times for them between 1956 and 1973, scoring nearly 250 goals. An attacking midfielder renowned for his passing and ability to score from long-range, Charlton won three First Divison Titles, one FA Cup, and the UEFA European Cup in 1968 whilst playing a big part in the Manchester United side that was rebuilt under Sir Matt Busby following the Munich disaster. His personal accolades also include a Ballon d'Or for the World's best player in 1966.
Bobby Charlton's success continued at International level as well. Capped 106 times by England and scoring 49 goals, Charlton played a key part in the team which won the 1966 FIFA World Cup on home soil. He for a long time held the goal scoring record with both Manchester United and England, with both of those records since being surpassed by Wayne Rooney.
Charlton continues to be a director at Manchester United and a regular at Old Trafford to this day.
Continuing round in a clockwise direction brings you to the West Stand, known affectionately as the Stretford End.
Following the cantilever roof design that mirrors the rest of the stadium, a large amount of the ground’s official parking spaces can be found on this side and beyond the northwest corner, with the Manchester United Ticket Office also around here.
On the concourse of the stand's upper tier is a statue of Denis Law. Born in Aberdeen on 24th February 1940, Law played as a forward for clubs in England and Italy, joining Manchester United from Torino in 1962. Another to play part in the successful rebuilt team under Sir Matt Busby, Law played more than 400 times for the Red Devils between 1962 and 1973, scoring over 230 goals. He would win two First Divison Titles, one FA Cup and the 1968 UEFA European Cup whilst with the club, and also personally won the Ballon d'Or for the World's best player in 1964.
Capped 55 times by Scotland, scoring 30 International goals, Denis Law has been nicknamed the 'King of the Stretford End' by fans.
In November 2011, the North Stand, also known as the United Road Stand after the path that runs underneath it, was renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in honour of the club’s longest serving manager.
Born in Glasgow on 31st December 1941, Ferguson played as a forward for Scottish clubs including Dunfermline Athletic, Rangers and Falkirk. He is best known however for his time in management, becoming Manchester United manager in 1986 following a very successful period with Aberdeen.
Ferguson would retire 27 years later in 2013 after overseeing easily the most successful period of Manchester United’s history. His incredible list of honours includes 13 Premier League Titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, the UEFA European Cup Winners' Cup, two UEFA Champions League Titles and the FIFA Club World Cup amongst many other trophies. Many consider Sir Alex Ferguson to be the greatest manager in football history.
A year after the stand was renamed, a statue of Sir Alex Ferguson was erected outside the main entrance.
The stand itself has a beautiful-looking exterior, and the turnstiles leading inside can be found underneath along United Road. It's worth heading out slightly beyond the stand to bask at the impressive exterior in all its glory.
The outside of the East Stand is perhaps the most recognisable part of Old Trafford’s exterior.
Manchester United's Megastore is located here, along with a tinted glass façade behind which you can find the club’s Administrative Offices.
A statue of former Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby is in place above the East Stand Entrance. Born in Belshill on 26th May 1909, Busby won five League Championships, two FA Cups and one European Cup whilst also being in charge of Manchester United during the time of the Munich Tragedy in 1958, rebuilding the team into one of the greatest ever seen.
Associated with the club for 25 years in total, Busby passed away on 20th January 1994 at the age of 84.
On the ground outside the East Stand is a giant red and white football which you can only really get a good view of from high up in the air. At the tip of the ball is another statue, unveiled in May 2008, 40 years after the club’s first European Cup title.
It depicts the ‘holy trinity’ of Belfast-born George Best, Aberdeen-born Denis Law and Ashington-born Sir Bobby Charlton who were a huge part of that title-winning team, and also each picked up a Ballon d’Or as the World’s best player during their illustrious careers.
George Best is the one name in the trio who has yet to be mentioned. Born on 22nd May 1946, Best came through at Manchester United, playing more than 450 times for the club and scoring nearly 180 goals between 1963 and 1974. An attacking player renowned for his dribbling and goal scoring, Best is regarded as one of the finest footballers ever and one of the first celebrity players because of his lifestyle. He would win two First Divison Titles and the 1968 UEFA European Cup with Manchester United, as well as the Ballon d'Or for the World's best player in 1968.
Capped 37 times by his country, Best's lifestyle ultimately got the better of him and he passed away on 25th November 2005 at the age of 59 following multiple organ failure. His legacy remains strong not just at Manchester United however, with many considering him to be the greatest ever to pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland.
Inside the Stadium
The Sir Bobby Charlton Stand is the smallest at Old Trafford, consisting of a single tier of red seating.
There is a row of executive boxes right up at the very back and the main executive seating blocks are based in front of here, whilst the gantry holding the matchday camera hangs from the roof overhead.
Manchester United's dugouts are built into the front rows of the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, whilst the changing rooms and tunnel are based in the stadium's southwest corner. On a matchday, both teams walk from the tunnel along the side of the Old Trafford pitch as they make their way over to the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand's centre.
The cantilever roof here means that there are no supporting pillars coming down, and so your view from anywhere inside is perfectly clear and well protected from the elements.
The Stretford End is two-tiered with the lower level larger than the one above. The very top rows of the stand are also much steeper than the ones below.
The letters STRETFORD and END are spelt out in white along the upper and lower parts of the bottom tier respectively, using a slither of black seating to give each letter a 3D effect.
Your view from anywhere inside the Stretford End is perfectly clear because of the stand's cantilever roof, and windshields are in place where needed to protect fans from the elements.
The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand is the largest of the four at Old Trafford, consisting of three tiers.
The bottom level is the largest, and split into two sections, with the letters MANCHESTER spelt out in white seating on the upper section, and the letters UNITED spelt out along the lower section. There is a sliver of black seating next to each letter which gives them a 3D effect.
Between the bottom tier and middle tier is a row of executive boxes, and there are further boxes between the middle tier and upper tier, which is the smallest of the three levels. Some of the highest seats in the entire stadium can be found up here.
Executive seating blocks can be found at the front of the middle tier and the back of the lower tier, with small black boards in place to segregate them from the rest of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
Your view from anywhere inside the stand is perfectly clear because of the cantilever roof above, and the two-tiered northeast and northwest corners are also fully protected from the elements.
The East Stand is commonly referred to as the Scoreboard End due to it previously being located here.
It is a two-tiered stand of a similar height to the adjacent Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, with the bottom tier larger than the top. A company connected heavily to Manchester United, usually the kit manufacturer or in previous cases the club’s shirt sponsor, has its logo made out of white seats amongst the rows of red, once again using slivers of black seating to create that 3D effect.
The disabled fans section can be found towards the bottom of the lower tier, near to the southeast corner and very close to the pitch.
Like the rest of Old Trafford, your view from anywhere inside here is perfectly clear with no supporting pillars coming down. Windshields are also in place where necessary to minimise the amount of wind and rain that can get in on a matchday.
Away fans are seated in the southeast corner, and depending on the allocation, as many as a few hundred to several thousand can make up this area, with the rest being made available to home supporters that are segregated from the away following.
It is here though that one of the rare criticisms of Old Trafford comes.
The away section is located directly above the disabled supporter section, and there have been several past accounts, particularly on European nights, of the disabled fans having objects thrown at them by the away support above.
This is of course inexcusable and has been mentioned by plenty of Manchester United fans on multiple occasions, but as of yet, nothing has been done about it.
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include*:
-The Bishop Blaize (708 Chester Road, M32 0SF) (A JD Wetherspoon Pub, Not Recommended for Away Supporters)
-The Lime Bar (Unit G1, The Quays, M50 3AG) (Popular with Away Supporters)
-The Matchstick Man (Capital Quay, M50 3WL) (Used by Away Supporters)
-Within the Printworks (27 Withy Grove, M4 2BS) (Southeast of Manchester Victoria Station and connected via Metrolink to Manchester Piccadilly)
-The Trafford (699 Chester Road, M16 0GW) (Not Recommended for Away Supporters)
*The general recommendation for away supporters is to find a drink either within the centre of Manchester or over in Salford Quays before making your way to Old Trafford. Pubs within close range of the stadium are typically for home supporters only.
If you are putting together a bucket list of football stadiums, I can guarantee that Old Trafford will be one of those right up at the top. Players dream of playing here and football fans dream of coming here.
I’ve been lucky enough to be in that away section watching my club play, and it’s an experience that you never, ever forget.
Beautiful both inside and out, Old Trafford is, and forever will be, one of the world’s most iconic football grounds.
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