Old Trafford

by | Mar 14, 2018 | Football

Old Trafford recently celebrated its 90th anniversary. iNostalgia looks at how the ground has changed over the past nine decades.

Who would have thought that a muddy patch of land next to the Bridgewater Canal would one day become one of the world’s greatest football grounds?

But back in 1909, that’s precisely what Old Trafford was. The future Theatre of Dreams was just an ambition, a hope, in the mind of Manchester United chairman John Henry Davies.

One thing was certain, United couldn’t go on playing their matches on their two pitches in the early 1900s – North Road and Bank Street in Clayton.

The conditions were little short of dreadful. The pitches were blighted by gravel and marsh; smoke and fumes billowed out of factories next to Bank Street.

It was hardly the setting for a team that had won the First Division championship and FA Cup.

After funds were raised, work soon started on Archibald Leitch’s design for a 100,000-seater stadium. The capacity was trimmed to 80,000 after construction costs started to escalate above the original £60,000 budget.

The stadium was completed in late 1909 and hosted its inaugural match on February 19th 1910. The visitors were Liverpool and United lost 4-3.

The ground hosted the 1911 FA Cup Final replay between Bradford City and Crystal Palace – City won 1-0 – and the 1915 final between Sheffield United and Chelsea, which United won 3-0.

The match was nicknamed the Khaki Cup Final as most of the spectators were serving soldiers.

Old Trafford’s first international took place on April 17th 1926 when Scotland beat England 1-0 in front of 49,429 spectators.

Bombing in World War II took its toll. A raid in March 1941 damaged much of the stadium, particularly the main stand now known as the South Stand.

United were forced to play their home matches at Maine Road up until 1949 when Old Trafford was finally reopened.

The first match was against Bolton Wanderers on August 24th. A crowd of 41,748 saw United celebrate a 3-0 victory.

Much of the ground was still uncovered in 1949 as our picture shows. Part of the old stand can still be viewed to the right.

Bolton are the visitors in the first match at Old Trafford after the war, August 1949

The roof was restored to the main stand in 1951 and the Stretford End (now the West Stand) was covered in 1959. Proper floodlighting was installed in 1957.

The prospect of staging World Cup matches in 1966 led to a complete redesign of the North Stand. Old roof pillars were replaced with the now familiar cantilever construction allowing an unobstructed pitch view.

The new design also saw the first private boxes at a British football ground.

The new cantilever roof takes shape in August 1965

When the East Stand was converted in the same cantilever style in 1973, the club came up with their long-term plan to make the whole stadium a wrap-round bowl.

A £3 million expansion project was launched in 1975, culminating in a new cantilever roof for the Main Stand and a new seating section for the south-east quadrant.

The old floodlight pylons were replaced by a row of lights around the inner rim of the roof in 1987.

United draw 1-1 with Wolves as the new roof is built, January 1972

The 30-year-old North Stand was demolished in 1995 and replaced by what was then the largest cantilever roof in Europe, measuring 192 feet from front to back.

A second tier was added to the East Stand in 2000 and to the West Stand a year later. The capacity was then 68,217 – making it the biggest club stadium in the UK.

Cranes at work on Old Trafford’s redevelopment, December 1996

Old Trafford hosted its first major European final in 2003 – the all-Italian UEFA Champions League decider between Juventus and AC Milan. The game went to extra time with Milan winning 3-2 on penalties.

Our photo shows Bobby Charlton proudly parading the Champions League trophy outside Old Trafford on the eve of the match.

Bobby Charlton with the Champion’s League trophy, May 2003

Over the years, Old Trafford has been much more than a football venue. Concerts have been held there as well as a host of other sports.

Cricket invaded the sacred turf in 1981 when Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire battled out the first round of the Lambert and Butler seven-a-side competition.

A rare sight – seven-a-side cricket at Old Trafford, September 1981

Rugby League has also been a visitor. Our picture shows the first ever World Cup Challenge Final which was played at Old Trafford in October 1989.

Widnes beat Australian champions Canberra Raiders 30-18 to claim the world crown.

Widnes beating Canberra in the first ever World Cup Challenge Final, October 1989

Finally, crossing to the other rugby code, New Zealand’s man-mountain Jonah Lomu tormented England’s defence during the first test match in the 1997 series between the two countries.

New Zealand won 25-8 although Lomu, for once, didn’t get on the score sheet.

Powerhouse winger Jonah Lomu takes on England at Old Trafford, November 1997

To remember Manchester United’s famous youth team – the Class of ’92 – iNostalgia and the M.E.N. have produced a special commemorative mug featuring the team line-up.

It’s made to the highest quality, hand-finished and dish-washer proof. Like your memories, it will last for years!