In 1878, a group of local railway men came together and dared to dream. Thirty-two years later, one of the most iconic football stadiums, dubbed ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ by Sir Bobby Charlton, opened for business. But does the stadium still deserve the name it was christened by a club legend?
Recent talk suggests that the structure is now an old stage gathering dust – a stage, run by an idiot, where players strut and fret for ninety minutes until the final whistle is blown, signifying nothing. It is becoming an almost weekly nothing for the 75,000 attendees who have been collectively sounding their fury with chants of ‘Ed Woodward, he’s going to die’ during recent home fixtures. Possibly the most fitting part of this slight nod to Shakespeare’s Macbeth is that, far away, in the cellar of their Beverly Hills Headquarters, three creatures of darkness are controlling Manchester United’s fate and leading the club towards inevitable doom.
Meanwhile, from his Californian cellar, director Ed Glazer has been busy financing Donald Trump’s circus.
The lack of investment from the Glazer family is becoming increasingly obvious and the cracks are beginning to show. With Premier League and European rivals splashing the cash on stylish new stadiums, is it time Ed Woodward re-signed ex-Red Dion Dublin for a special Stretford edition of Homes Under the Hammer? The bleak reality is that no significant architectural project has taken place at the club since the quadrants were extended in 2005. Despite rumours of an expansion upping the stadium’s capacity to 88,000, the famous Sir Bobby Charlton Stand has remained untouched since 1974. Ironically, given the historical roots of the club, it is the railway line behind the stand that is preventing any plans from taking off; the project has been deemed too complicated and expensive.
Meanwhile, from his Californian cellar, director Ed Glazer has been busy financing Donald Trump’s circus. Glazer donated £75,400 to the President’s 2016 electoral campaign and a further £192,400 towards his inauguration. It appears the echo of ‘Make America Great Again’ has not managed to ripple its way over British waters and into the boardroom at Old Trafford.
In fact, the only new addition to the grounds is the construction of ‘Hotel Football’, a project financed by the class of ’92. Inside one of the hotel’s 133 rooms, one pillow has ‘Dreaming of Victory’ sewn into it; another has ‘Dream Big’. Away fans, checking in on the eve of matchday, must rest quite comfortably in that room thinking ‘Dream On’ as they drift off to sleep. It seems farcical that while the stadium itself receives criticism for looking tired and neglected, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville are having a kick-about on an artificial rooftop pitch. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must feel as though he has received the raw end of the deal, resembling Brad Pitt at the beginning of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button more and more every day.
As a name, nobody can doubt the weight Old Trafford still carries. It was designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch and then made great by succeeding Scots Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. It would seem harsh to blame the current sorry state of affairs solely on a lack of infrastructural investment. Safe to say, the majority of United’s fan base would prefer the money to be spent on new players.
Slick modern stadiums do have style, but do they have soul? How precious is the modern fan about their pre-match experience? Perhaps the luxury of filling up your beer from the bottom of your cup whilst peering through glass tunnels is simply an example of the vanity that is so often criticised in the modern game.