Old Trafford could be bulldozed and rebuilt under plans by Manchester United owners the Glazers

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

Once the preferred bidder is named, the United are expected to seek a more detailed assessment of the costs, timescales and pros and cons of the three proposals before setting 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 their plans for Old Trafford, United are also redeveloping their existing 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 architects behind Liverpool, Tottenham and Leicester’s new training grounds, have been appointed to lead the project and a full-time project manager is now in place.

Glazers make good on promise – but fans unlikely to get excited just yet

By James Ducker

The prospect of a revitalized Old Trafford was one of the olive branches that emerged out of the ashes of the widely derived European Super League (ESL).

Desperate to atone for their role in the failed plot last April, the Glazer family made several promises to Manchester United supporters in an effort to “show that we can put things right”.

In addition to creating a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme, Joel Glazer, United’s co-chairman, told an online fans’ forum six weeks after the ESL debacle that “significant investment and upgrades” to the stadium would be forthcoming and that the end result would be something “we can all be proud of”.

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Now 10 months on, it would appear that the Glazers are sticking by that promise with the club, already committed to overhauling the training ground, on the verge of appointing an architectural company to oversee the redevelopment – ​​or perhaps even the complete rebuild – of one of the most iconic stadiums in world football.

Much like their new if enforced dialogue with fans, it is long overdue. The Glazers may tell us more than £100m has been spent on infrastructure projects over the past decade but Old Trafford has, in many ways, become a symbol of the decay on the pitch over that period, too: a fading force in chronic need of wholesale makeover.

For the fans who had been campaigning against the Glazers’ ownership for longer than they care to remember, the ESL – and the United owners’ role within it – was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

United’s game against Liverpool at Old Trafford the next month even ended up being postponed after supporters broke on to the pitch to protest amid scenes every bit as hostile as those which greeted news of the Americans’ impending takeover back in 2005.

The Glazers have been trying to build bridges ever since, even if there are plenty of fans – skeptical, disillusioned or angry and wondering why it took a botched power grab to belatedly bring the owners to the table – who have had little interest in their apologies and promises. It is a battle for acceptance that the Americans, in reality, may never win, all the more so if the team continues to remain so dysfunctional on the pitch on their watch.

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In an open letter to United fans last April, Glazer talked about “rebuilding trust with our fans”, as if the trust was ever there to begin with. It was not but the owners are continuing to press ahead with their charm offensive regardless and a new or redeveloped stadium would be the most eye-catching, not to mention costly, development of all.

The more cautious and pragmatic supporters are unlikely to be getting too excited just yet. Not only will they want to see which of the three proposed design plans the Glazers plump for, they will doubtless want to know more about how such a huge project would be financed.

The Glazers saddled United with huge debt and interest payments to fund their takeover and the possibility of more large-scale borrowings financed solely by the club at a time when the squad also needs overhauling could provide a difficult balancing act.

For their part, the Glazers have vowed to consult with the fans every step of the way. What materialises will be intriguing.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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