Old Trafford expansion unlikely as club aim to improve atmosphere
Managing director not sure club can expand without becoming temporarily ‘homeless’
Jose Mourinho has been critical of the atmosphere at Old Trafford. Photograph: PA
There have long been calls for the largest league ground in England to not only receive a lick of paint but be expanded from its current capacity of 74,994.
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust has called for the stadium to become “the largest in Europe” as the club and their fans “deserve no less”, with plans afoot to bolster Old Trafford’s capacity to a reported 88,000.
But managing director Arnold has underlined issues involved in redeveloping and expanding the Bobby Charlton Stand, with engineering challenges compounded by issues of finding a suitable temporary home like Tottenham have managed with Wembley.
“We haven’t left the easiest stand until last,” Arnold told United We Stand, quoted in the South China Morning Post.
“The South Stand — the Bobby Charlton Stand — is the last unexpanded stand.
“It’s sandwiched in a fairly narrow strip of land between the pitch and the main Manchester to Liverpool railway.
“There’s not much space on either side of the stand, meaning that it’s a very complex engineering challenge to deliver.
“It would be a multi-season challenge and it isn’t certain that there’s a way of doing it which doesn’t render us homeless.
“We have the biggest fanbase in the country and we’re not in London, where we could use Wembley.
“So that’s not a light challenge for us and we don’t want to give up the home advantage that we have here.
“Moving elsewhere would be difficult and the logistical issues associated with expanding the South Stand are not negligible.
“And that’s before you start getting into how big the expanded stadium should be.”
Arnold is confident Old Trafford will be expanded “one day” and says stadium development is backed by the Glazer family — but United are not only looking to improve the stadium but the atmosphere.
United boss Jose Mourinho has made his frustration with the Old Trafford faithful known during his tenure and last week the club introduced cheaper tickets for young fans to help improve the atmosphere.
Pitchside seats in the lower Stretford End will be available for £15 for fans aged 18-25 next term, while season and match ticket prices have been frozen for a seventh consecutive campaign.
United successfully trialled a singing section in the FA Cup quarter-final against Brighton, while a survey of fans is in the pipeline — if perhaps not the use of song sheets mentioned in a recent fans’ forum.
United are also in favour of safe standing at Old Trafford.