Old Trafford: the shining jewel in the crown that is Manchester United. A destination with a wow factor that offers heritage, culture, modernity, warmth, light and vision. The ground has been revamped and overhauled or even downsized for the club’s vaunted youth team to finally have a permanent home, while a fresh 110,000 capacity stadium – perhaps called New Old Trafford – has been built for the successors of Billy Meredith, George Best, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney at mercy. All this part of a Manchester United HQ developing the huge plot of land owned at the M16 0RA.
With the Glazers signaling they may sell, it hardly takes an architect to see how a new owner can transform a crumbling and patched-up Old Trafford that has seen zero new structural redevelopment since Malcolm Glazer bought the club in 2005.
An illustration of what can be achieved is Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which took three years to build and cost £1 billion and is a shining testament to vision and ambition. For the 62,000 fans who can attend, there’s a Michelin star restaurant, plenty of bars for home and away fans, a Grade II listed building, an art gallery, Europe’s largest club shop and, in general, a feeling that everything was built with care and Note the following.
The funding required for a similar side would certainly start at £2 billion, but United, even more so than Tottenham, have a proud history to draw upon to create a forward-looking monument to England’s record winners that will in time return the holder a handsome profit.
The club was recently valued at around £3.75bn, but Ed Woodward, the former chief executive, believed that the revenue streams are so large yet untapped that they could easily be raised to north of £10bn.
Case in point: the official tour of Old Trafford lacks imagination, the highlight being the trumpeted access given to the “actual changing rooms” used by the team during what feels like a bolt-on walkabout. Imagine instead a Manchester United virtual reality palace where, via glasses, you live the fantasy of any United player in any old triumph – say Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the 1999 Champions League final – and try to score a famous goal .
Or a bespoke Manchester United museum that allows an in-depth, immersive journey from Newton Heath LYR Football Club of 1878 to the current Manchester United. Or why not go outside the Michelin Tottenham and have a two-star restaurant open not only on match days, and located next to mid-range priced eateries that can be enjoyed after shopping in the shops, working out at the Manchester United gym, watching the latest Hollywood -the film at Manchester United cinema or a youth production at Manchester United’s community theatre?
There’s more than enough acreage to achieve all that and more, but instead the Glazers lacked something real: a neat shorthand for their 17-year ownership.
This year, the Glazers appointed two master planners, Legends International and Populous, with the aim of finally redeveloping the club’s home. Then a spokesperson said: “Manchester United has appointed a team of leading consultants to begin work on creating a masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford. Work will begin immediately to develop options for Old Trafford and study their feasibility, with the aim of significantly improving the fan experience.” This appears to have been abandoned.
The significant number of United fans will be hoping that if they do sell, the buyer will not turn out to be Glazer’s MK II.