FEATURES

19/02/2010 00:01, Report by Steve Morgan
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OT: Designed for life

‘Create the finest stadium in the north’ was the bold creative brief. Although Leitch’s plan to produce a 100,000-capacity venue was ultimately scaled down following overspending of £30,000, it didn’t disappoint. When the stadium staged its inaugural fixture on 19 February 1910 – we’ll gloss over the 4-3 defeat by Liverpool, naturally – Old Trafford was hailed a ‘wonder to behold’. The correspondent from The Umpire was bowled over by the pristine playing surface and wrote: “I know groundsmen who would weep at the mere thought of using such a perfect pitch for so reckless a game, but football knows no sentiment.”

The timing of the move wasn’t bad, either. United bowed out at Bank Street with a 5-0 thrashing of Tottenham on 22 January 1910, a game originally pencilled in for the new stadium. Days later, one of the stands collapsed in a gale, destroying several houses nearby.

Old Trafford’s ‘bowl’ layout, enclosed by curved terracing, held 82,000 - 12,000 under cover and 70,000 on open terraces. The old half-mile walk for refreshments (now from the comfort of tip-up seats for the well-heeled, at five shillings a pop) was in the past – tea-rooms offered the first, and at that time last, word in matchday catering. A plunge bath, billiard and massage rooms completed the grandeur.

As has so often been the case since, the surrounds of Old Trafford inspired those in Red. That first-day defeat apart, United went unbeaten at home for virtually a year, lifting the league title once more. Davies’ home for heroes had been fully realised.

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