Old Trafford must be torn down, it’s the only way Man United can move forward

On Wednesday morning, the day after RB Leipzig had lost at Manchester City, pockets of their fans gathered at Old Trafford. They wondered when they may next be this way again and wanted their photos taken outside an iconic football ground.

Inside that building, behind all that steel and glass, there is much being discussed. Who — if anyone — will be Manchester United’s new owners? And what — just as importantly — will they decide to do with Old Trafford?

Two options are on the table regarding the future of the stadium. One is to renovate it. The other is to flatten it and start again.

United are vexed about it. They know they need a new-look stadium. The current version is desperately out of date. The club are concerned about how much it all costs, obviously, but are also worried what their supporters think. 

So much so that they wrote to their season-ticket holders last year and asked them. The results of that particular survey are not known.

Manchester United need to knock Old Trafford down and build a new-look stadium

I live in Manchester and know many United supporters. Old Trafford is a few miles from my house. I have been there to work more than any other stadium in the country. And my firm view is they should knock it down. It sounds like heresy, doesn’t it? 

As soon as the words are out of your mouth, it sounds wrong. It feels like you are betraying the history and traditions of a great football institution. Except you wouldn’t be, not really. The real betrayal of Manchester United would be in making a decision that prevents the club moving forward.

The truth is this is not so much a problem as an opportunity. United are actually extremely lucky. Old Trafford sits on an enormous plot of land. Most of it is car-park space that is empty for days. United own it. So they can build on it and this means Old Trafford can always be Old Trafford and that, to me, is the really important part.

This would not be one of those awful relocations. This would not be West Ham or Southampton, or even Manchester City. This would be a rebuild on the same plot. It could still be called Old Trafford and the match-day rituals engrained in many fans — same tram, same pub, same chippy – would remain. That is so vital to this conversation that it simply cannot be overstated.

Liverpool and Everton once briefly considered a ground share on the park that sits between Anfield and Goodison and they should have done it. I don’t know anybody who agrees but that is beside the point. 

A best-in-class stadium could have been built on the doorstep of their current homes. They could have had an Anfield End and a Goodison End. Light it up red one week and blue the next. Fabulous.

Instead, the Merseyside clubs stepped away and returned to their own projects. So work at what is a much-improved but nevertheless imperfect Anfield continues while Everton build what looks set to be a beautiful stadium down by the docks. They will be Everton but will no longer be in Everton and so, immediately, something is lost.

United do not face this dilemma. Tottenham found a way through that maze too. Somehow they managed to build one of the world’s very best football stadiums virtually on the same plot as White Hart Lane and, every time I visit, it takes my breath away. It is this that should inspire United right now and it is interesting that the club have appointed the very same architects.

Tottenham played at Wembley for a couple of years while they built their new stadium, and United must also be willing to make sacrifices to move forward as a club

Tottenham played at Wembley for a couple of years while they built their new stadium, and United must also be willing to make sacrifices to move forward as a club

Tottenham played at Wembley while their ground was being built. It was an obvious move. Arsenal once did that, too. For United this is less straightforward. There is nowhere remotely big enough or palatable enough in the north to house them for the two years it would take to build their new house. A ground share with Liverpool, Leeds or City? Simply not going to happen.

But sacrifices need to be made to secure the long-term so here is the solution. Play at Wembley. Offer your season-ticket holders a seat at the national stadium and some kind of subsidised travel to get there. Some will take that and some won’t.

At the same time guarantee all of them a similar category of seat at the new stadium when it is ready. So at the very worst, a supporter will spend two years watching United on TV before taking his or her place at the new Old Trafford.

Two years is not a long time. It is three years since the Covid pandemic struck. It is seven years since Leicester City won the Premier League. Two seasons would pass soon enough and at the end of it would stand a suitable vision of United’s future.

Old Trafford is still a great place to watch a game. But it is a bad place to try to buy a coffee or a beer or have a wee. It doesn’t make the money it should. It doesn’t offer United the opportunities it should. It is time for United to act like a big club. Be big, be brave, be bold. Knock it down.

There will always be those who accuse the club of betraying the legacies of the past. But a greater crime would be to cut themselves off from a better future.

Palace should hold their nerve on Vieira

One of football’s problems is too few people see beyond the present. So the keys to the house are routinely offered to a manager who has won six games while one whose team is struggling is turned round to ensure the door to the car park is in full view.

Patrick Vieira at Crystal Palace is a case in point. Last season he was judged to have reinvented the wheel when improvement in results was actually marginal. Palace played better football than under predecessor Roy Hodgson but the outcome was similar — 48 points rather than 44.

A year on and Palace are in a deep rut. No win since New Year’s Eve and Vieira under scrutiny. But their actual results tell the story. Palace tend to lose their games by a single goal. Nobody hammers them or puts them away. They play tight games. They compete. They just don’t currently win enough.

Patrick Vieira should be given time to turn things around at Crystal Palace

Patrick Vieira should be given time to turn things around at Crystal Palace

So, yes, Vieira faces challenges. There is a problem to solve and it’s called goalscoring. But Palace don’t look likely to go down. They don’t play chaotic, reckless football — like Leeds under Jesse Marsch or Southampton under Nathan Jones — or appear terrified and listless like Frank Lampard’s Everton.

Vieira was not the Messiah last year just as he is not a fool now. Palace chairman Steve Parish is a sensible man who runs his club well. He should hold his nerve.

Too many ‘impacters’

Mikel Arteta wants to call substitutes ‘impacters’. Another option as we continue to sag under the utterly unnecessary weight of five per game is to call them a total waste of time.

Antony is Man United’s one-trick pony

Antony has an excellent left foot, but needs to use his right foot more to be less predictable

Antony has an excellent left foot, but needs to use his right foot more to be less predictable

Gordon Strachan was a fine attacking midfielder for Aberdeen, Manchester United, Leeds and Scotland.

When he was a kid he would kick a football endlessly off one wall and then the other of his parents’ garage.

The aim was to ensure he had two good footballing feet, not just one.

Watching United’s £80million Brazilian forward Antony recently was to conclude that he most likely never did any of this.

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