Old Trafford: the shining jewel in Manchester United’s crown. A destination with a wow factor that combines heritage, culture, modernity, warmth, light and vision. The site has been redeveloped and overhauled or even downsized to finally give the club’s vaunted youth teams a permanent home, while a new 110,000-capacity stadium – perhaps dubbed New Old Trafford – has been built for the successors of Billy Meredith, George Best, Roy Keane and Wayne is built to grace Rooney. All of this is part of a Manchester United headquarters developing the vast property of M16 0RA.
With the Glazers offering a sale advertisement, there is little need for an architect to see how a new owner could remodel a crumbling and patched-up Old Trafford, which has not undergone a new structural redevelopment since Malcolm Glazer bought the club in 2005.
An example of what can be achieved can be found at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which took three years and cost £1bn to build and is a shining example of vision and ambition. For the 62,000 fans who can attend, there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant, numerous bars for home and away fans, a Grade I listed building, an art gallery, Europe’s largest club shop and an overall feeling that everything was built with care and care became attention.
The funding required for an analogue site would certainly start at £2bn, but United, even more so than Tottenham, have a proud history that could be drawn on to create a forward-looking memorial to England’s record-breaking title-winners of time would show the owner a nice profit.
The club was recently valued at around £3.75bn but Ed Woodward, the former chief executive, believed the revenue streams yet to be tapped are such that they could easily be pushed to over £10bn.
For example, the official tour of Old Trafford is unimaginative, culminating in trumpeting access to the ‘actual dressing rooms’ used by the team during what appears to be a screwed-up tour. Instead, imagine a Manchester United virtual reality palace where, via glasses, you act out the fantasy of any United player in any triumph – say Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the 1999 Champions League final – and try to score a famous goal.
Or a bespoke Manchester United Museum, offering an in-depth, immersive journey from 1878 Newton Heath LYR Football Club to Manchester United today. Or why not be better than Michelin Tottenham and have a two star restaurant not only open on match days and adjacent to mid-range restaurants to enjoy after shopping in boutiques or working out at Manchester United’s gym, catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster at Manchester United Cinema or a youth production at Manchester United Community Theatre?
There’s more than enough acreage to accomplish all of this and more, but instead the Glazers lacked any real will: a neat shortcut to their 17-year tenure.
That year, the Glazers appointed two master planners, Legends International and Populous, with the intention of finally rehabilitating the club’s home. A spokesman then said: “Manchester United have appointed a team of senior advisers to begin work on the creation of a master plan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford. Work will begin immediately to develop options for Old Trafford and study their feasibility, with the goal of significantly improving the fan experience.” This appears to have been abandoned.
What the significant number of United fans will be hoping is that when they sell, whoever is buying turns out not to be the Glazers MK II.