Davies enlisted Leitch, the brains behind Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium, to realise his grand design. With leisure time in Edwardian England on the up and a burgeoning city population rising beyond two million, Davies envisaged a playground to match the city’s buoyant music halls and theatres. With land acquired for £60,000 by his Manchester Brewery Company, Leitch, with Manchester builders Brameld and Smith, would make it so.
‘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