Exactly 104 years ago today (19 Feb), Manchester United played the first-ever match at Old Trafford. Here, we chart the stadium's rich history and heritage...
Nestled between the Bridgewater Canal and a railway line, Old Trafford springs from its foundations to overshadow the surrounding areas of industrial estates and terraced housing, making a statement to all who approach: ‘this is Manchester United Football Club; this is the Theatre of Dreams.’
Aptly, Sir Bobby Charlton coined that phrase in the pages of ‘Soccer’, a book by author John Riley, at the beginning of Sir Alex Ferguson’s imperious reign in 1987. Since then, United’s home has undergone a dramatic evolution to become what is – in our humble opinion - the finest club ground in British football.
Indeed, Old Trafford is the second largest stadium in the UK (after Wembley) and ninth largest in Europe, having developed enormously since it was first designed in 1909 by the celebrated architect Archibald Leitch, whose iconic works also include Liverpool’s Anfield, Fulham’s Craven Cottage and Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium, among many others.
Back then, ambitious chairman John Henry Davies had a vision that didn’t involve the crumbling, smog-bound facilities at Bank Street, where the pitch was a quagmire, deemed unsuitable for a club of United’s calibre. His solution was to spend £60,000 on a stadium fit for heroes, prompting one journalist to describe the venue as “the most handsomest, the most spacious and the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester.” In keeping with such a review, Old Trafford soon staged the 1911 FA Cup final replay and the 1915 final, before hosting a first international match eleven years later.
A full house was seldom seen as the side yo-yoed between the top two divisions in the years preceding World War II, but much worse would befall the