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Old 2nd October 2017, 15:28   #1
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Default Andy Mitten: Manchester United MUST put money back into Old Trafford

Andy Mitten: Manchester United MUST put money back into Old Trafford

Daily Post columnist Andy Mitten on why the Red Devils' must at least fork out for a lick of paint on their stadium

08:59, 22 SEP 2017

Manchester United’s revenues exceeded £500m for the second consecutive year and are forecast to be closer to £600m next year. Despite record outlays on players and wages, United are making vast profits (£80m this year) and debts are declining, yet Old Trafford, the great old home of the team has had no significant developments for over a decade.

As huge new stadiums from Atlanta to Madrid wow football fans, the 76,000 seater in M16 looks less cutting edge, more fraying around the edge.

Even with all the changes which continue outside the ground, as pubs close and tram tracks go down, fans love the giant red cavity. Yet some of the vast monies coming into the club can help right some of the wrongs.

Though United have said little publicly, the club looked at dozens of ideas to expand the main Sir Bobby Charlton stand, the only single tiered part of Old Trafford, but so far there has been nothing. Fans wouldn’t mind if it contained some high yield executive seats to help pay for another 10,000 or 14,000 seats, with Ed Woodward stating that demand for the club’s executive facilities were at an all-time high.

There are other issues. Old Trafford’s roof swoops too low and shrouds the stadium in a dark cloak. Designed in 1995 when pitches weren’t as advanced and couldn’t grow as now, it doesn’t help with the atmosphere.

Old Trafford was once at the vanguard of English stadia development, be it for executive facilities, a long-term development plan or boasting terraces and seats on all four sides. It was bigger and better than the rest - louder too - but the gap is closing, both in terms of capacity and aesthetics. What was acceptable in 1967 isn’t in 2017. The concrete concourses are dated, the leg room is among the smallest in football. Manchester City, Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool, have all spent far more on their homes than at Old Trafford in the last 10 years. Chelsea are planning to rebuild Stamford Bridge.

Granted, those other clubs English needed to redevelop, but Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two giants United should be measuring themselves against, plan significant stadia development to their own ageing homes.

United should spend money on Old Trafford now, starting with a lick of paint on the flaking white girders above the roof.

The stadium sells out for every league game and the demand is there for a bigger capacity. The club have moved from not being in favour of safe standing to supporting it. Be bold, push for it. The fans want it, the team will benefit from it.

Build another deck above the main stand too, the technology exists and it’ll bring more uniformity to sort the roof out. Crucially, it’ll help with the changes needed to offer more disabled places inside the stadium.

It won’t yield results as quickly as a centre forward, but it’s a solid investment – as every single ground development has been at Old Trafford since the club took the gamble of leaving cramped Clayton next to the chemical works for the west of the city in 1909.

Standing still means moving backwards. I recently visited Hillsborough for the first time since Sheffield Wednesday were in the Premier League and it was like a 90s throwback, an example of Yorkshiremen taking their ‘change is not good’ mantra too far. I half expected Jarvis Cocker to turn up in a whirl of Blairism.

Hillsborough was once more modern than Old Trafford and hosted more games at Euro ’96 than any other apart from Wembley. Hillsborough wouldn’t come close to being selected for a major tournament now.

Tradition is great and nobody wants a soulless bowl where the club’s latest sponsors approach you mid match and ask you try their noodles or a sip of spritz. But nor do fans want another 15 years with no developments, especially when the demand exists to sell more tickets and give some of the young supporters of the future a chance to see their red-shirted heroes.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Martin Luther King
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