Old Trafford Wembley-look rejig mixed response


Sir Jim Ratcliffe on a new ManUnited Stadium Image: Coliseum GSVA

The British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has targeted delivering a new Old Trafford to become the ‘Wembley of the North’.

‘Daily Mail Online’ stated that the INEOS billionaire has entered into a dialog with the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham after buying a 25 percent stake in the club.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a British billionaire, Chemical Engineer and businessman. Ratcliffe is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the London (UK)-based INEOS chemicals group, which he founded in 1998. The company is estimated to have had a turnover of $65 billion in 2021.

The Old Trafford is a football stadium in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England (UK) and the home of Manchester United F.C. With a capacity of 74,310, it is the largest club football stadium (and second-largest football stadium overall after the Wembley Stadium) in the United Kingdom and the 12th-largest in Europe.

The Manchester United Football Club, commonly referred to as Man United, or simply United, is a professional football club based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England (UK). The club competes in the Premier League, the top division of the English football league system. The Old Trafford serves as their residence.

‘Daily Mail Online’ further stated that Ratcliffe is aiming for a world-leading, iconic venue to rival the Wembley Stadium in London and its 90,000-capacity, and may seek public funding to achieve the dream.

Moving away from the club’s historic home would be controversial, but some feel a new world-class stadium could help the club re-establish itself at one of the game’s elite clubs.

Four Manchester United Legends Views

Remarked Alex Stepney, former Manchester United goalkeeper, “I do hospitality and every game they come from China, Australia, America, and Argentina. There’s a tremendous history. I think it would be tragic if they moved the stadium. You’ve got the statues of Sir Matt Busby (a Scottish football player and Manager, who managed Manchester United between 1945 and 1969 and again for the second half of the 1970-1971 seasons) and Jimmy Murphy (a Welsh footballer who was an influential figure at Manchester United). You would lose so much of the history, not just for the supporters here but the rest of the world. My preference would be to stay where we are. To rebuild the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand and improve the other parts of the ground with a roof all the way around. Build it up. Surely there are architects who can design that. If we could stay there and redevelop it, we could still get 90,000-100,000 spectators.”

Stepney believes it would be tragic if Man United decide to move the stadium.

Shared Gary Pallister, former Manchester United player who won 15 trophies for the top-flight, “I hate to say it because I never thought I’d see the day when I would say, ‘Leave Old Trafford’, but the idea of putting a purpose-built, state-of-the-art stadium next door is appealing. As fantastic a stadium as it is – and it’s not as bad as some people have made out – to make it the Wembley of the North might be the way forward. It could cost £2billion to build, which is mind-blowing. But as a player and supporter, to go into a brand-new stadium like the Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur F.C. have got, maybe that’s the step we have to take if we want to keep our place at the top table and be spoken about as one of the elite of world football.”

Added Pallister, “The traditionalists want to stay and I get that. It’s understandable that people talk about the history but you can’t stay in one place forever. You have to move into the present day at some stage, it’s just a matter of which way you do it. Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to be seen to be getting things back on track, and building a 90,000-seat stadium would be a huge statement.”

Observed Lou Macari, a Scottish former footballer and Manager, who is best known for his time at the Manchester United, where he played over 400 games, “Just recently, I was asked to do a stadium tour and I jumped at the opportunity. I got the shock of my life when I saw what a great stadium it is. Everywhere I went, I had goosebumps. Old Trafford isn’t falling down. Overall, the stadium is brilliant. I’m struggling to find where you could improve things greatly. I wouldn’t like to lose that feeling of being a real football club with history. I scored on my debut at the Stretford End, and I wouldn’t like that to be moved. It’s OK if you want to upgrade it a little bit. But taking away the history of the football club and ending up with a new stadium, I wouldn’t be happy with that and neither would a lot of supporters.”

Added Macari, “Is there a modern stadium anywhere in the country that we can all say is worth going to? The new Wembley? Come on, there’s nothing about it. I went to Wembley four times as a player in the Seventies and Eighties, and when I go there now it doesn’t do anything for me.”

Macari feels Old Trafford still has the edge on modern stadiums despite needing upgrades.

Stated Sammy McIlroy, a Northern Irish retired footballer who played for the Manchester United, “I would hate it if we have to move. You are starting in a new stadium to build history again, whereas Old Trafford has been there for years and years. People might say I’m old school but I’ve got fantastic memories of Old Trafford and I would love to see them redevelop it from the inside and make it look like Wembley. What’s there now, make it better. Can we expand to get more people through the door? The capacity is 75,000. Can we make it a little bit bigger? I’m sure you could easily get 85,000 for Manchester United’s home games. If we can redevelop the old railway (South) Stand which has always been a bit of a burden, I would go for that.”

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