The most dramatic time to see Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium will always be on a match day. There really is nothing else quite like emerging into the daylight from the steps to the stand to see more than 70,000 people looking down onto the hallowed turf.
If the Reds win, all the better. But if you can’t get a ticket to the big game, there’s always Dave.
A close second to the highs and lows of seeing United in action at home is the opportunity to breathe in 108 years of football history by taking the Old Trafford stadium tour.
Taking the Old Trafford tour
Accessing through the third-floor museum, the tour begins in the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, where Dave, our guide for the day, is waiting with tales of soccer’s past and a red card. He uses it whenever someone steps out of line.
In fact, hIs jokes lose nothing in being clearly well rehearsed, with banter about Ronaldo’s narcissism and Liverpool’s lack of trophies. “What’s the only ship never to have docked in Liverpool?,” he asks. The Premiership of course. But his welcome is warm and Mancunian and he really knows his stuff. Much like the Reds then.
There’s a certain eeriness about the place on a non-match day for anyone used to standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands. But the relative peace and tranquility provides opportunities to take in characteristics that might be lost in the hustle and bustle of the big day.
First stop on the tour is some useful perspective from a seat in the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, which provides a vantage point across the pitch to the dugout and directors box in the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand. From here you can see the “noisy” Stretford End, TV gantries, players’ tunnel and sophisticated sprinkler system, which keeps the Old Trafford pitch looking better than it ever used to.
It cost around £900,000 to install and is half grass, half artificial – one of many fascinating facts the tour offers.
Dave checks his watch, which he claims has has 65 minutes on its face – you guessed, it displays Fergie time! – and we’re off towards pitch-side and some more familiar views on the Old Trafford tour.
We’re now standing in the corner where Old Trafford’s accessible seating and space is set aside for supporters who find it difficult to get to the main stands. It will be soon be expanded to other parts of the ground, enabling more people to experience match day. It’s a great vantage point for photographs of the Stretford End.
It’s a great vantage point for photographs of the Stretford End. Then we’re back beneath the seats as we make our way through the swanky Directors Box – more an upmarket refectory with comfy seats than a box – and on to the press room, where interviews are conducted before and after a match. Inside the United dressing room is one of those ‘pinch me’ moments.
This really is the place where so many greats have prepared for so many sensational victories. By contrast, the away team dressing room is impressive, but not quite so impressive. Then Dave lines us up in the players’ tunnel and we get the view that hundreds of greats have taken in ahead of a gruelling match. Unless they end up on the substitutes bench – where we’re able to rest a while and consider what it’s like the play for one of the most famous club’s on earth.
We pause a while at a picture of the Busby Babes and Dave gets serious for a second as he talks about the Munich tragedy of 1958 and the way that the club was rebuilt. It’s an amazing part of the history of an incredible club and the stadium tour is a great way to get closer to it.
Old Trafford tour highlights
Other highlights include the chance to visit the walk down the players’ tunnel, visit the Manchester United dressing room, and sit on the substitutes’ bench. Click through the gallery to look at the highlights of the Old Trafford tour for yourself and look below the gallery for a link to tickets.
Manchester United Stadium Tour
Manchester United Stadium tours cost between £6 and £29. Click here to book.