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12th Apr 2018

Manchester United’s Old Trafford plans may leave club temporarily ‘homeless’

Matthew Gault

Would Manchester City welcome them to the Etihad with open arms?

Manchester United managing director Richard Arnold has admitted that the club’s current plans to expand Old Trafford may force them to play elsewhere for a while.

United are currently looking at possibly expanding Old Trafford from its current capacity of 76,000 to somewhere in the region of 88,000-90,000.

The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust has backed the proposal, calling for the Theatre of Dreams to be expanded to the point where it is the largest stadium in Europe.

However, Arnold has delivered a sobering reality check that expanding the Bobby Charlton Stand may raise the issue of United playing their home games elsewhere, much like Tottenham Hotspur, who have made Wembley their temporary home before moving into their new ground.

“We haven’t left the easiest stand until last,” Arnold told the United We Stand fanzine. “The South Stand – the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand – is the last unexpanded stand. It’s sandwiched in a fairly narrow strip of land between the pitch and the main Manchester to Liverpool railway.

“There’s not much space on either side of the stand, meaning that it’s a very complex engineering challenge to deliver. It would be a multi-season challenge and it isn’t certain that there’s a way of doing it which doesn’t render us homeless.

“We have the biggest fanbase in the country and we’re not in London, where we could use Wembley. So that’s not a light challenge for us and we don’t want to give up the home advantage that we have here.

“Moving elsewhere would be difficult and the logistical issues associated with expanding the South Stand are not negligible. And that’s before you start getting into how big the expanded stadium should be.”

United recently announced the introduction of £15 tickets for fans aged 18-25 from next season in a bid to improve Old Trafford’s atmosphere, while the club trialled a singing section during the recent FA Cup win over Brighton.

It would certainly be an interesting development should the circumstances transpire as Arnold has predicted. While Spurs were able to find Wembley nearby, where would United play their home games while Old Trafford was getting a facelift? Surely a groundshare situation with Manchester City is out of the question.