United v Luton was our 2500th Old Trafford match
Manchester United's Premier League clash with Luton Town on Saturday was an important one for the record books, as the Reds contested our 2500th competitive men's first-team fixture at the Theatre of Dreams.
In our matchday programme, United Review, we celebrated this remarkable milestone by flicking back through history to recall some of the unforgettable moments at the iconic arena - with many more to come in the future.
Below, you can read the full feature from the Luton programme, which you can still purchase online...
UNITED 3 LIVERPOOL 4 | 19 FEBRUARY 1910
Though Old Trafford’s maiden fixture hardly unfurled in the fashion United had hoped for, with leads repeatedly squandered in a seven-goal thriller against the visiting Merseysiders, the stadium’s mere opening represented a major landmark in club history. As The Umpire newspaper declared after just one match: “Old Trafford is the classic home of sport and has an association far wider and more important than is covered by this name of Manchester.”
#388 | GIBSON IS SWAYED
UNITED 3 WOLVES 2 | 25 DECEMBER 1931
Six days prior, struggling United slipped to a home defeat against Bristol City watched by just 4,697 supporters. Local businessman James Gibson pledged his financial backing for the ailing Reds, contingent on greater interest from fans. Thus, on Christmas Day, a gate of 33,123 watched on as Wolves were beaten, serving up an atmosphere and spectacle which convinced Gibson to press on and save United.
#552 | CURTAINS DOWN
UNITED 2 LIVERPOOL 0 | 6 MAY 1939
The final game of the 1938/39 season saw a Jimmy Hanlon double defeat Liverpool, whose line-up included veteran right-half Matt Busby. Three months later, United kicked off 1939/40 with a 4-0 win over Grimsby at Old Trafford, but the outbreak of World War Two meant the campaign was abandoned and that result expunged from the records. Bomb damage suffered in 1941 meant the stadium wouldn’t host another game for a decade.
#553 | CURTAINS UP
UNITED 3 BOLTON 0 | 24 AUGUST 1949
Old Trafford’s post-War comeback was delayed by two south stand bombings from Luftwaffe planes during the conflict, but a new chapter belatedly began after three years as tenants at Maine Road. Matt Busby's installation as a young, unproven manager proved a masterstroke and the Scot’s 148th game as United boss finally took place at Old Trafford, where Bolton were overpowered in front of 41,748 supporters.
UNITED 2 REAL MADRID 2 | 25 APRIL 1957
The delayed installation of floodlights meant that the Busby Babes’ initial forays into European football took place at Maine Road before a semi-final tie with the mighty Real Madrid. Despite an aggregate exit, Old Trafford was transfixed by its first continental clash as the Reds battled from two down to snatch a 2-2 draw. As Manchester Evening News titan David Meek remarked: “It was some feat to peg them back to a draw.”
#751 | UNITED GO ON
UNITED 3 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 0 | 19 FEBRUARY 1958
Less than a fortnight after the horror of the Munich Air Disaster, United were back in action on a surreal, emotional, unforgettable evening at Old Trafford. Jimmy Murphy’s patched-up squad produced the most heroic performance in club history, progressing to the FA Cup quarter-finals in unbelievable style. As Wednesday’s Albert Quixall recalled: “United ran their hearts out. They were playing like men inspired.”
#902 | THE LAWMAN RAISES THE BAR
UNITED 3 NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1 | 25 APRIL 1964
A key component of United’s post-Munich recovery, Denis Law plundered goals at an almost unparalleled rate during his Reds career. In just his second season at the club, he finished off his campaign with a brace against Nottingham Forest which took his total for the season to a jaw-dropping 46 goals – a haul which still remains the best individual goalscoring term in club history, and also saw him awarded the Ballon d’Or.
#1092 | BUSBY’S FINALE
UNITED 3 IPSWICH TOWN 2 | 24 APRIL 1971
After returning from retirement for a second stint as United manager, Sir Matt Busby called it quits for good at the end of the 1970/71 season. Fittingly, three Busby Babes – Best, Charlton and Kidd – all netted in an entertaining win over Ipswich Town in his final outing at Old Trafford. After two subsequent away fixtures took his total to 1,140 games at the United helm, a legendary managerial career came to a close.
UNITED 3 BARCELONA 0 | 21 MARCH 1984
“I remember Martin Edwards saying to me before kick-off: ‘You will hear a noise tonight like you’ve never heard,’” recalled then-manager Ron Atkinson, of a night often cited as Old Trafford’s greatest game and atmosphere. Two down from a Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final first leg in Barcelona, the Reds produced a performance for the ages to turn the tie on its head as a Bryan Robson brace and Frank Stapleton’s aggregate winner took United through in barely credible fashion.
#1488 | FERGUSON’S FIRST
UNITED 1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0 | 22 NOVEMBER 1986
Fresh from breaking up the Old Firm’s Scottish football duopoly, Alex Ferguson was tempted south from Aberdeen to replace Ron Atkinson as United manager. After defeat at Oxford in his opening game, the Scot enjoyed better fortunes in his Old Trafford bow, watching on as Danish defender John Sivebaek cracked in a free-kick winner to set an unforgettable chain of events in motion.
#1675 | FAREWELL, SIR MATT
UNITED 1 EVERTON 0 | 22 JANUARY 1994
Two days after the passing of Sir Matt Busby, Old Trafford witnessed an afternoon of perfect tribute. Beyond the pin-drop silence, bar the sombre sounds of lone piper Terry Carr, was a staggering display from the reigning Premier League champions. “I want my players to go out and play the way Sir Matt would want them to,” stressed Alex Ferguson, whose desire was realised by an untouchable display of attacking football which deserved to yield far more than just Ryan Giggs’s headed winner.
#1705 | SETTING THE STANDARD, PART ONE
UNITED 9 IPSWICH TOWN 0 | 4 MARCH 1995
With United’s club record 10-0 win over Anderlecht achieved at Maine Road, Old Trafford’s biggest home win had been 1969’s 8-1 triumph over QPR until Ipswich Town were subjected to a nightmare afternoon at the Theatre of Dreams. A Premier League record victory was achieved through Andy Cole's quintet, plus a Mark Hughes brace and efforts from Roy Keane and Paul Ince.
#1962 | ROONEY’S FIRST IMPRESSION
UNITED 6 FENERBAHCE 2 | 28 SEPTEMBER 2004
In United’s history, only Charles Sagarhad marked his Reds bow with a hat-trick, and that had come at Bank Street back in 1905. Almost a century later, Old Trafford witnessed a debut treble for the first time as Wayne Rooney battered home three corkers in a Champions League obliteration of Fenerbahce, notching goals one, two and three of what would become a club record total of 253.
UNITED 3 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1 | 30 NOVEMBER 2005
Five days after the tragic passing of Reds legend George Best, the League Cup visit of West Brom – against whom the unfathomably brilliant winger had made his debut – provided Old Trafford with an opportunity to say farewell. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Louis Saha and John O’Shea ensured a fitting result. “The fans were fantastic,” stressed Sir Alex Ferguson. “They paid a fitting tribute to George.”
#2037 | PACKED OUT THEATRE
UNITED 4 BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 | 31 MARCH 2007
The record attendance at Old Trafford was set, somewhat counterintuitively, by Grimsby and Wolves, who attracted 76,962 spectators to their 1939 FA Cup semi-final showdown in M16. The high-water mark for a United fixture came during the 2006/07 Premier League title run-in, when Blackburn Rovers took a first-half lead, but were overpowered amid a deafening din as the hosts won 4-1.
#2061 | NEVER FORGOTTEN
UNITED 1 MANCHESTER CITY 2 | 10 FEBRUARY 2008
Five decades on from the Munich Air Disaster, fate decreed that a Manchester derby would be the closest fixture to the landmark anniversary. Old Trafford was transformed into a gargantuan tribute, awash with bar scarves for both sets of supporters and one-off, sponsor-free kits for both teams. A 90-minute match to forget, but a 50-year commemoration which will live on forever.
#2211 | THE END OF AN ERA
UNITED 2 SWANSEA CITY 1 | 12 MAY 2013
“You have been the greatest thrill of my life,” Sir Alex Ferguson confided to a capacity Old Trafford crowd, having taken charge of a competitive match at the Theatre of Dreams for the final time. Fittingly, his side served up a late 2-1 win before collecting the Premier League trophy – a national record 20th title – so the Scot bowed out firmly on top of the game.
UNITED 3 HULL CITY 1 | 6 MAY 2014
Installed as caretaker manager for the final four games of the 2013/14 season, Ryan Giggs not only oversaw victory over Hull City in the campaign’s last home game; he also saw fit to introduce himself as a second-half substitute. Making his 963rd outing for his boyhood club, the Welsh winger set an incredibly high all-time club appearances record which may never be beaten.
#2417 | SETTING THE STANDARD, PART TWO
UNITED 9 SOUTHAMPTON 0 | 2 FEBRUARY 2021
“It was about the mojo and spark – the X-factor,” grinned manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, having seen his side equal the biggest victory in Premier League history – a landmark first set at Old Trafford 26 years earlier. The second-minute dismissal of Alexandre Jankewitz allowed the Reds to run up a 4-0 interval lead, while another quintet in the final 21 minutes took the hosts to another historic win.
#2497 | FAREWELL, SIR BOBBY
UNITED 1 FC COPENHAGEN 0 | 24 OCTOBER 2023
Last month, we mourned once again for the loss of a club legend. Sir Bobby Charlton passed away at the age of 86, bringing down the curtain on an incredible life and a career which yielded long-held records for club appearances and goals. As stadium announcer Alan Keegan said, ahead of an immaculate pre-match silence: “Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
In addition to occasions when Old Trafford has hosted the Reds as a neutral venue, namely the 1992 UEFA Super Cup – when the two-legged format for our meeting with European champions Red Star Belgrade was shelved due to safety concerns in the Balkans – United have also been the away team here in M16. When Bury were drawn at home against Alex Ferguson’s side in the 1987/88 League Cup, the Shakers requested that the venue be switched to Old Trafford in order to satisfy ticket demand. The third-tier side threatened an upset when Jamie Hoyland opened the scoring just after half-time, only for a quickfire double salvo from Norman Whiteside and Brian McClair to salvage victory for the ‘visitors'.