bombers targeting the Trafford Park Industrial Estate landed two direct hits on the stadium; destroying the main stand, scorching the pitch and forcing United to pay rent to Manchester City for the use of Maine Road. The costs were onerous and the club had ran up debts of £15,000 by the time OT was reopened in 1949.
Entry into the European Cup required floodlights, which illuminated a semi-final clash with Real Madrid in April. In 1966, a shiny new North Stand was erected ahead of the World Cup, notably containing the first private boxes at a British football ground – an idea Matt Busby suggested after watching baseball in the US. Perimeter fences were among the next additions to the stadium furniture as hooliganism proliferated in the 1970s.
Following the 1989 tragedy at Hillsborough, the Taylor Report recommended that all top-flight grounds be converted to all-seater stadia. This forced Old Trafford's capacity to drop to 44,000. But as the Reds’ popularity surged in the 1990s, an all-seater Stretford End was built. A new three-tier North Stand followed with further developments made to the East and West Stands, just prior to hosting the 2003 UEFA Champions League final. Having added second tiers to both the north-west and north-east quadrants, crowds peaked at a record 76,098 for the visit of Blackburn in 2007. Today, after a few changes to seating configurations, capacity sits at 75,524.
In keeping with the club’s traditional values, today’s Old Trafford houses various nods to history via the Munich memorial, tunnel and clock, as well as the bronzed statues of Messrs Busby, Best, Law, Charlton and Ferguson, whose name also adorns the aforementioned North Stand.
Like the city of Manchester, the stadium is much changed in recent years – slicker, smarter, more modern - but at its core, it is still the same. After a 104 year existence, it remains a cathedral of football and a pilgrimage for every Manchester United fan.