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big plans Manchester United could knock down Old Trafford in ambitious plan to rebuild stadium


Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier takes a free-kick at Old Trafford during Saturday's match against Manchester United. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier takes a free-kick at Old Trafford during Saturday's match against Manchester United. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier takes a free-kick at Old Trafford during Saturday's match against Manchester United. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

Old Trafford could be knocked down and rebuilt under plans being considered by Manchester United.

The club are close to appointing preferred partners for what could be the biggest redevelopment project in the club’s history after an exhaustive tender process, in which bidders were asked to submit three design proposals.

The most ambitious of those options is for a complete rebuild of Old Trafford, England’s largest club stadium with a capacity of 74,140 and United’s home since 1910. If United pressed ahead, a larger stadium with a capacity to rival Wembley’s 90,000 would be built on a reconfigured site and could feature a smaller, second ground that could play home to the women’s team and academy matches.

The Glazer family have come in for heavy criticism in recent years from supporters for neglecting Old Trafford, which has become tired and outdated, particularly in relation to some of their rivals’ new state-of-the-art stadiums.

Although a full rebuild would be a much more straightforward project in many ways than redevelopment of the existing stadium, one of the biggest headaches would be where United would play their home matches while the work was carried out.

Such a construction project could take two to three years and, unlike with Tottenham Hotspur – who played at Wembley for two seasons while their new stadium was built – there is not an alternative, large-scale venue in the north-west of England which United could use.

A ground share could present an array of problems and would also mean a severe hit to match-day revenue. United generate at least £4.25 million (€5m) for every home game.

Nothing is off the table, though, with United prepared to consider all options after a thorough review of the plans put forward. The other two options under consideration are:

  1. An expansion of Old Trafford’s existing South Stand, which would involve going up and over the top of the adjacent railway line and increase capacity to more than 80,000, plus an overhaul of the rest of the stadium.
  2. A complete revamp of the existing stadium, including a drastic overhaul of the club’s corporate hospitality, but with no South Stand expansion.

It is understood that if United went with one of these options, the club ideally favour a phased rebuild that would allow them to keep playing matches at Old Trafford at full capacity, rather than accept the temporary closure of the South Stand.

But it is believed that, as well as being extremely complex, the costs involved in such a project would sky-rocket if the preferred bidder was asked to redevelop the South Stand while it remained open to fans on match days.

United’s South Stand holds 9,433 seats, excluding the directors and press boxes, with a further 1,585 executive seats in the upper section.
The south-west and south-east quadrants hold a further 4,338 supporters combined.

Any of the options would involve a huge rethink of the existing corporate hospitality, which was once the envy of English football but now trails rivals who have moved into new stadiums, and Liverpool, who redeveloped Anfield.

Collette Roche, United’s chief operating officer, told the club’s fans’ forum a fortnight ago that they would appoint their preferred partner “in the coming weeks” after meeting with companies covering architecture, engineering, construction, crowd modelling, transport and security.

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Once the preferred bidder is named, United are expected to seek a more detailed assessment of the costs, timescales and pros and cons of the three proposals before settling on the best way forward.

“Following this, we will be able to formally kick off ‘Phase 1’ of the project, which will be focused on establishing the vision and objectives of the masterplan,” Roche said.

In addition to plans for Old Trafford, United are redeveloping the Carrington training base with the aim of turning it into a world-class facility that better serves the first team, women’s team and academy.

KSS, the architect behind Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester’s new training grounds, has been appointed to lead the project and a full-time project manager is now in place.

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