Old Trafford (given the nickname The Theatre of Dreams by Sir Bobby Charlton) is an all-seat football stadium in the town of Stretford in the Trafford borough of Greater Manchester, England and the home of Manchester United F.C. The ground has been United's permanent residence since 1910, bar an eight year absence from 1941 to 1949 following the bombing of the stadium in the Second World War (during which time the club shared Maine Road with Manchester City). The stadium is located approximately half a mile from Old Trafford Cricket Ground and the adjacent Manchester Metrolink tram station.
The ground has frequently hosted FA Cup semi-final matches (as a neutral venue), and hosted several England international fixtures whilst Wembley was under reconstruction. It also hosted matches at the 1966 FIFA World Cup and Euro 96, as well as the 2003 UEFA Champions League Final. With London winning its bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, the stadium will most likely be used for some preliminary men's and women's football matches during the Games. Outside of football, Old Trafford has hosted Super League's Grand Final since the rugby league's adoption of playoffs in 1998. Also, in its early days, the ground also hosted games of shinty, the traditional sport of the Scottish Highlands.
Behind Wembley Stadium, Old Trafford has the largest capacity of any English football stadium at just over 76,000, and is the only UEFA 5-star rated facility in England.
Prior to 1902, Manchester United were known as Newton Heath F.C., during which time they played their football matches at North Road, and then Bank Street in Clayton. Both grounds were blighted by wretched conditions, and, following the club's rescue from near-bankruptcy and renaming, it was decided that the Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had recently won the First Division and FA Cup, so funds were released for the construction of a new stadium.
A plot of land at Old Trafford was purchased for £60,000 and plans for a 100,000-capacity stadium were submitted. However, further investment to the tune of about £30,000 would have been required, and the plans were scaled back to a 60,000-capacity ground with an absolute maximum of 80,000. Designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, who also designed stands at Hampden Park, Ibrox Stadium, Highbury, Craven Cottage and White Hart Lane, the ground featured seating in the south stand under cover, while the remaining three stands were left as terraces and uncovered.
Development was completed in 1909, and the stadium held its inaugural game on 19 February 1910, with United playing host to Liverpool F.C. However, the visitors spoiled the proceedings, winning 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".
Prior to 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, 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.
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 Aston Villa, barely two days after the team had beaten the same Villa side 4–3 at Villa Park. Ironically, the record attendance at Old Trafford is not for a United home game — a rarity for British club grounds. Instead, on 25 March 1939, 76,962 people watched an FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town. At the ground's present capacity of 76,212, this looks unlikely to be surpassed in the near future. However, if planned developments continue, this record will almost certainly be broken by United themselves.
In the 1930s, the roof of the south stand was replaced, while roofs were added to the south corners and a temporary one to the north stand. However, German bombing during the Second World War on 11 March 1941 destroyed much of the stadium, notably the main stand. Though the stadium was restored to its pre-war state in 1949, it meant that a league game had not been played at Old Trafford 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.
Soon after, during the 1950s, the three remaining stands were covered, the operation culminating with the addition of a roof to the Stretford End. The club also invested in the installation of proper floodlighting. 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 supporting the roofs. With the 1966 FIFA World Cup fast approaching, this prompted the United directors to completely redesign the ground's north and east stands. The old roof pillars were replaced with modern-style cantilevering on top of the roof, allowing every spectator a completely unobstructed view. The organisation of the stands was also rearranged to have terracing at the front, and a larger seated area towards the back, as well as the first private boxes at a British football ground.
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 within the ground and focus it onto the pitch, where the players would feel the full effects of a capacity crowd. Meanwhile, the stadium hosted its third and, to date, final 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 1970s saw the dramatic rise of football hooliganism in Britain, and when Manchester United were relegated to the Second Division in 1974, the club's hooligan firm — the Red Army — became one of the most feared in the country. Their activity forced the club to erect the country's first perimeter fence around the Old Trafford pitch.
Since the first improvements to the ground were made following the Second World War, the capacity of the ground had been steadily declining. 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 stadia be converted to all-seaters. This meant that plans to replace the Stretford End with a brand new all-standing terrace with a cantilever roof to link with the rest of the ground had to be scrapped. This forced redevelopment, including the removal of the terraces at the front of the other three stands, reduced the capacity of Old Trafford to an all-time low of about 44,000.
However, the club's resurgence in success and increase in popularity ensured that further development would have to occur. In 1995, construction began on a brand-new North Stand. The new stand would have three tiers and a capacity of about 26,000, raising the capacity of the entire ground to approximately 55,000. The cantilever roof would also be the largest in Europe. 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.
From 2001 to 2007, following the destruction of the old Wembley Stadium, the England national football team was forced to play its games elsewhere. For the first few years, the team toured the country, playing their matches at various grounds from Villa Park in Birmingham to St James' Park in Newcastle. However, in 2003, the Football Association decided to make Old Trafford the regular venue for England matches. This was scheduled to finish in 2005, when the new Wembley Stadium was due to be completed, but its completion took longer than expected and Old Trafford continued to host England matches until early 2007, the last one being a 1–0 loss to Spain on 7 February 2007.
Old Trafford's most recent expansion 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. The stadium is now the 36th largest football venue in the world and the 12th largest in Europe. 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. However, this lasted just 3 days before 69,522 people watched United play West Ham on 29 March, and was re-broken on a frequent basis as more sections of the new quadrants were opened. The latest Premier League attendance record to be set was on 31 March 2007, when 76,098 spectators saw United beat Blackburn Rovers 4–1.
Manchester United Museum
Manchester United's club museum is located in the North Stand. According to the club's website, it attracts over 200,000 visitors a year.
Manchester United FC Halt
This is a single-platform railway station located directly behind the South Stand. It is only open on match days.