It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in world football and home to one of the sport’s proudest clubs.
Yes, success may have been a bit thin at Manchester United in recent years and the stadium could do with a bit of TLC, but Old Trafford is a footballing mecca for many. Victories, titles and legends have all been celebrated inside the ‘theatre of dreams’.
The stadium is a giant of Greater Manchester steeped in history which dates back 112 years. Every matchday, tens of thousands of supporters become the envy of millions around the world, as they take to their seats at Old Trafford.
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Over 74,000 can pack out the stadium, and fans have had plenty of special moments to cheer over the years. But for those living in the streets that surround the ground, Old Trafford is their neighbor – and it’s not always a happy relationship.
“They are the worst neighbors in the world,” Chris Geliher says, as he lights a cigarette in the front garden of his Railway Road home. The street sits on the opposite side of the freight railway line from the legendary stadium, which peeps above rooftops along the street.
Chris has lived at the house for more than three decades, when Old Trafford’s capacity was just 44,000. “It was fine when I first moved here and there were a lot less fans,” Chris, 72, told the Manchester Evening News .
“There would be a couple of bobbies out on the street here, a couple in the next road, stopping people coming here on a matchday. But that went by the by.”
For some residents like Chris, living in the shadow of Old Trafford has three main drawbacks – parking, litter and a small number of visitors to the ground using the streets surrounding it as a public toilet. Residents living in parts of Gorse Hill close to the stadium need to pay Trafford Council for a 12-month parking permit – which increased in price this month to £47.50.
People living in the area need a permit for their own vehicle and a visitors’ permit for anyone visiting them. But despite signs warning drivers about the restrictions, some people visiting Old Trafford still use the streets nearby to park their car for the game.
Chris said: “There’s no guarantee I can park here on a matchday. Traffic wardens seem to be reluctant to come round.”
‘People are disrespectful’
Parking woes are only part of the headache on roads close to Old Trafford, which get clogged up with traffic on a matchday. Stella Joseph, who has lived on Partridge Street for seven years, said: “People are here from early morning and the traffic is dead bad on a matchday. You can’t do anything. You can’t go anywhere.
“I don’t understand the timings, especially during the week. What’s the point of starting a match at 8pm after somebody has come back from work? And then you have got to wait for about two hours to get down the road to my house .”
A Partridge Street resident of 20 years, who asked to remain anonymous, told the MEN she had received abuse from football fans parking up outside her home for the match. “If somebody does park there and you say something, they give you lots of lip,” she said.
“I can’t go out on a matchday. If I put my cones out or bins out to stop people parking there, they just move them away. We never see a traffic warden on a matchday.”
It’s not just issues with cars that cause headaches for some neighbors of the stadium though. Residents told the MEN that some fans chuck beer cans and litter in their front gardens – while others even urinate outside their homes.
“I get up in the morning to go to work,” the Partridge Street resident said. “There are beer cans, there are chips, all in the garden. They sit on your wall eating chips.
“Because it’s empty next door, they wee on it, it’s horrible. It’s never fighting or anything like that though.”
Stella, who has an eight-year-old son, says it’s OK in the area if fans ‘behave themselves’ – but things can take a turn for the worse. She said: “People come and see the match, but they don’t behave at all, putting litter everywhere.
“People are disrespectful. They are here from 9am, going to all the bars, getting beer – then they are drunk and they don’t know what they are doing. I’m happy living in the area but it’s just on matchday we have issues.”
Chris added: “The council used to get a squad round to do the clean up before the match for visitors, but when [fans] left, they left it in a much worse state. We’ve had people going up the alleyways peeing.
“A few years ago they were putting out portaloo-type urinals so fans could use them. It’s not ideal but it certainly stopped people peeing against your walls, in your gardens, but they have gone.”
‘You feel quite privileged’
There is plenty of frustration among some residents who feel they are not treated with respect by visitors to the area on matchdays and there is not enough being done to help them. But for others living in the shadow of Old Trafford, the iconic ground is a source of local pride.
“As long as you know when they are playing then you can adjust to it,” George Burrage, of Partridge Street, told the MEN The 25-year-old is a Reading supporter and admits he’s seen his team lose at the stadium on a few occasions.
“I’ve not had any issues with the fans. It’s a bit of a pain with the driving but if you know when it’s happening it’s fine. I like it. I think it’s exciting being close to something so iconic. But we’ve only been here two months, so we might get sick of it.”
For the Devine family of Railway Road, the novelty of living close to the stadium has not worn off in the three years since they moved in. It’s a real privilege for mum Sian, a United fan from St Albans.
Sian, 37, said: “My friends when they come and visit, they absolutely love it. They think it’s amazing.
“On match days you would think it’s really stressful, but it has a really nice feel about it. When you see the fans are coming to watch the game, you feel quite privileged to live in the area.”
While Sian is red through and through, her husband Baz and children Caolan, seven, and Cara, three, are all Everton supporters. Sian added: “A lot of Caolan’s friends are United fans he likes the banter that he has with them because he’s a very proud to be an Everton fan.
“It can be a bit of a nightmare if you finish working at the wrong time on a Tuesday night – though we won’t have that problem anymore. But other than that it is fine.
“When you come in to it you know you live next to the ground you have to take that. I appreciate all it brings to the area.”
Even for those residents living by who struggle with parking battles and litter being dumped, they still told the MEN they were not looking to move home. Stella added: “It generates a lot of money to the area As long as they are not disturbing the residents, I’m ok with that.”
Chris Duwe, 49, has lived close to the ground for 20 years – but he is a Manchester City fan. The blues have soared up the Premier League table in that time and have become the city’s most successful team in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement at United.
“It doesn’t bother me who they are,” Chris says, but he admits it puts an extra spring in his step around the neighborhood every time City gets one over their neighbors. “It’s not too bad for anti-social behaviour, to be honest.
“It can be a bit of a nuisance from time to time though. On a match day they get here for a long time, you can’t get any parking space, the traffic is pretty horrendous.”
What the future holds
United fans have been crying out for investment in Old Trafford over recent years, with the last major work taking place in the stadium back in 2006. Last month, reports emerged that major work could soon take place.
The Telegraph revealed that plans were being drawn up to give the stadium a makeover and expansion, which would see it rival Wembley’s 90,000 capacity. One of the options reportedly being considered is even knocking the stadium down and rebuilding it.
Residents living close to the stadium were unsure if the development would cause them major disruption, but did share concerns about even less parking being available if the capacity is increased. For Chris Geliher, the reports are the latest in a long line of rumors about possible expansion to the stadium since he first moved into his home 31 years ago.
“There have been rumors since I have been here that they would expand,” he said. “If it did I would imagine they might want these houses knocking down or something, I don’t know.
“I’ll probably stay here now, I’m 72, my daughter lives just over the road. Unless they wanted to buy the house and build then they can pay me for it. We never get told what the plans are, we read about it in the MEN ”
“They can give me a CPO (compulsory purchase order) if they want,” the anonymous Partridge Road resident added. “As long as it’s worth more than what the house is worth, I’m not bothered.”
What the council says
Trafford Council insists it understands the problems raised by residents and has taken action to tackle them. A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “Trafford Council is aware of the concerns of residents about the conduct of fans on match days in Old Trafford and is working hard with the club, the police and other partners to ensure that there is a clamp down on unlawful or anti-social behaviour.
“Over the past three months over 1,000 parking fines have been issued while football is being played – and the council and police are looking to ramp up our enforcement over the coming weeks. The vast majority of football fans behave properly whilst coming enjoy the games at Old Trafford – however we continue to employ our enforcement powers against those [who] don’t conduct themselves responsibly whilst visiting the area.”
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