Are Manchester United getting a new stadium? What will it mean for the future of Old Trafford? And how much will this all cost? Sky Sports takes a look at the key questions…
Could Man Utd get a new stadium?
The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday evening that Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to create a new stadium for Manchester United, who have spent the last 114 years at Old Trafford, which holds nearly 74,000 spectators.
The plan, according to the report, would see United create a ‘Wembley of the North’ to rival the 90,000-seater national stadium in north London.
Billionaire Ratcliffe, who founded the INEOS group, is acquiring a 25 per cent stake of United for a fee of £1.2bn, which moved a step closer after a successful vote at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday.
“I was told that Sir Jim Ratcliffe turned up for one of his meetings and he had the feeling that for arguably the biggest football club in the world, the wow factor just wasn’t there. I agree with that,” said United We Stand Editor Andy Mitten to Sky Sports News.
What is Man Utd’s stance on this?
As of Wednesday morning, Sky Sports News understands all options are still on the table with regards to Old Trafford and no decisions have been made at this stage.
According to the Telegraph, Ratcliffe is against the idea of relocating the club but feels supporters will be behind a stadium move if they stay within the same land.
United own around 100 acres of land around Old Trafford, 43 acres of that land is ripe for development. Around 25 acres are said to be unused.
As part of the Future of Football series, Jim Heverin, a director at Zaha Hadid Architects, said the manner in which Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool have renovated their own stadia, rather than building new ones, is the template United should follow.
“At Old Trafford, you’d definitely expect them to be thinking about repurposing and not going anywhere else. Look at what Liverpool has been doing with these small modifications and upgrades. That looks like the future and not brand new stadiums,” he said.
“I know why Everton are moving but that is looking more like the old way of looking at new stadiums, particularly when you have something already that is an asset.”
Gary Neville has been very vocal about the need to improve the Old Trafford facilities. “Maybe what Liverpool have done is the way forward,” he said late last year.
“If there is a shortage of funds, maybe get one or two stands, absolutely world-class, and the other two follow up over the next five to 10 years. That would be a plan.”
What’s wrong with Old Trafford?
Oh, quite a lot. “Old Trafford is falling down” is the first line of a chant that fans of rival clubs have continually used to point fun at United this season.
The falling standards of United’s ground have been well-documented. Videos of run-down parts of the ground have circulated online in recent years and even though it is the largest club stadium in England, it was not selected to be one of the host venues for Euro 2028 in the UK and Ireland.
“The main stand does need doing, so does the roof, but the exterior of the stadium needs doing too,” added Mitten.
“It looks a little bit red in different areas and there are fundamental issues with Old Trafford which are not great. The legroom is notorious in the stadium.
“The designs of stadiums have changed since then when they first designed stadiums and the legroom is still the same now.
“It’s a beautiful stadium, Old Trafford – but I’m not a fan of the roof because I think it comes in too low.
“Old Trafford shouldn’t be getting smaller, it should be getting bigger.”
Neville has been very vocal about the need to improve the Old Trafford facilities. “I’ve heard that there is only a couple of hundred million of pounds or so being spent on Old Trafford. That’s nowhere near enough,” he said late last year.
“I’d rather have £200m spent on the old stadium and have two parts of Old Trafford looking absolutely amazing.
“It’s important that you have pride in where you play and Old Trafford is an amazing stadium.”
The last time the club undertook major works on Old Trafford was in May 2006, when 8,000 seats were added to the north-west and north-east quadrants of the stadium.
That work was approved before the Glazer family took control of the club in June 2005, meaning no work has been done to renovate Old Trafford since United’s majority shareholders took over 19 years ago.
What do Man Utd fans think about the situation?
Mitten believes the Manchester United fans are divided on how they want Old Trafford to be redeveloped, but adds that money and costs will come into the equation.
“From what I can see Manchester United fans are split on the decision of re-developing or building a new stadium,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to see some stadium developments around Europe such as Marseille. I’ve always favoured a re-development but I’m open to hearing and so are other fans. If the re-development ends up costing more money than a new stadium then that sheds the debate into a different area.
“Some fans love the idea of a new stadium. I love what Real Madrid have done and what Barcelona are doing, but I’m not completely against the idea of building a new stadium.
“I just favour a re-development. For me, Old Trafford just needs to be expanded. Old Trafford is a brilliant stadium but it’s not the best stadium in the world.”
What have other clubs done recently?
Staying on the same land is a move Tottenham made when they developed their new stadium. Spurs left their old White Hart Lane ground in 2016, spent nearly three seasons at Wembley, before moving back into their new 61,000-seater venue in early 2019.
One issue is that Old Trafford is located between a railway line and a canal, making the logistics relatively challenging. While Brentford managed to overcome a similar challenge for their Gtech Community Stadium in 2020, their stadium is much smaller, holding just 17,000 fans.
The renovation of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin’s Lansdowne Road also saw railway-line-related challenges, with a line running alongside the west of the stadium. That renovation was completed in 2010.
And the big one… how much would this cost?
The Daily Telegraph reports that expanding Old Trafford would cost United around £800m, whereas a new ground would cost around £1.5bn to £2bn.
Tottenham’s new stadium cost the club around £1.2bn, according to Spurs owner Daniel Levy in an interview in November 2020.
As part of his £1.2bn deal to buy a stake in United, Ratcliffe is putting £239m into the club to help boost the club’s infrastructure. Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim, who rivalled Ratcliffe in the running to control United, was willing to pledge £1.27bn for the same work.
United could lobby The Government to fund part of this stadium project as part of the ‘levelling up’ pledge, according to the Telegraph. Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said last week: “Whatever it is they [Ratcliffe and INEOS] want, we will facilitate and we will be there to make sure the club is set up for the future.”
But if those requests are not granted, then the only way United can afford this stadium is if either Ratcliffe ups his £239m pledge, the Glazers suddenly invest in infrastructure for the first time, or the club borrows more money.
And United already have around £969m of debt, according to data from March 2023. So where will the money come from?
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