Nicknamed the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, Old Trafford is one of Britain’s most iconic football stadiums. Home to Manchester United and located just a short bus ride from Manchester city center, it’s a must-visit for all football fanatics.
Ask any Brit what Manchester is famous for, and they’ll probably tell you music and football. But while musical tastes have moved from The Beegees to Britpop and beyond, Manchester United has kept its legions of devoted fans year after year. Since the team’s foundation in 1878, it’s been home to many of Britain’s footballing greats – George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham have all kicked a ball around while wearing a red Man U shirt. The club and its stadium share a long and dramatic history that’s witnessed as many highs and lows as an FA Cup final. If you’re staying at our Park Inn by Radisson Manchester City Centre, you’re only a 10-minute drive away from discovering Old Trafford for yourself.
Old Trafford first opened its turnstiles on 19th February, 1910. The new stadium was commissioned after Manchester United’s new chairman decided that their existing modest grounds on Bank Street weren’t suitable for a team that had recently won both the First Division and FA Cup.
Scottish architect Archibald Leitch was brought on board to design Old Trafford. One of Britain’s top football designers, between 1899 and 1939 he was responsible for more than 20 stadiums, including Stamford Bridge, Arsenal and Celtic.
On 19 February 1910, the first match at Old Trafford was held between Manchester United and Liverpool. Manchester United lost by one goal, with the final score standing at 3-4 to Liverpool, but by the end of their first season at Old Trafford, Man U were crowned League Champions again.
War and peace
After several decades of success, which included attracting a record-breaking crowd in 1939 for an FA semi-final match, World War II put the brakes on Old Trafford’s ascent. The stadium’s close proximity to Trafford Park Industrial Estate made it a target during the air raids. The damage was so extensive that it took eight years to fully rebuild the stadium.
In the meantime, Man Utd played their home matches at Maine Road, normally the home of their rivals, Manchester City. By 1949 Old Trafford was back in action, and over the years plenty of improvements were made to the stadium, including the first private boxes on a British football ground.
Old Trafford might be Man U’s home, but they’re not above inviting in the occasional international guest. The stadium was one of the venues for the legendary 1966 World Cup, hosting three group matches. When the 2012 Olympics arrived in the UK, Old Trafford made history by hosting its first women’s international football matches, along with several men’s tournament games.
In 2011 the North Stand was renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, to celebrate the icon’s 25th anniversary of managing the club. There’s a statue of Sir Alex too, arms folded in consternation.
Old Trafford remains one of Manchester’s top attractions, and offers daily guided tours around the grounds. You can end your visit with a trip to the stadium’s own Manchester United Museum, to learn even more about the fascinating history of this enduring club.