Euro 2022 opener adds to Old Trafford's history

Saturday 09 July 2022 16:00

Wednesday’s UEFA Women’s European Championship 2022 opener joined the long list of unforgettable events to have taken place at Old Trafford over the years.

A record-breaking crowd of 68,871 supporters packed into the Theatre of Dreams as hosts England kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Austria.

The evening provided a spectacle like none before it in M16, becoming the second competition-high attendance registered at the stadium in less than two months, following May’s FA Youth Cup final.

Following this remarkable night, we’ve delved into our archive to look back on other notable events to take place at the Theatre of Dreams, specifically not involving our men’s first team…

Old Trafford hosts historic Women’s Euros opener


Our three Lionesses played their part in M16 as England got off to a winning start at this summer’s home tournament.

FA CUP FINAL (1915) AND FINAL REPLAYS (1911 & 1970)

Just two years into its existence, Old Trafford played host to its first major final, as Bradford City triumphed 1-0 over Newcastle United in the 1911 FA Cup final replay. Four years later, in the midst of World War I, the final itself was moved from Crystal Palace to our M16 home on the grounds that it would prevent interference with the London war effort. Sheffield United got the better of Chelsea on that occasion in what became known as ‘The Khaki Final’ – due to the number of soldiers in attendance - but the Blues would return north to get redemption with victory in the 1970 final replay against Leeds United. The Theatre of Dreams has also previously been a regular host of the competition’s semi-finals as a neutral venue, including in the 1938/39 season, when our stadium’s all-time record attendance was registered (76,962) during a last-four tie between Wolves and Grimsby Town.

WORLD CUP (1966)

Old Trafford first hosted an international in 1926 as Scotland narrowly defeated England 1-0, before national-team football returned to the ground in 1938 as the Three Lions overcame the Republic of Ireland 7-0. Its affiliation continued at the 1966 World Cup, as the stadium shared the games played in Group Three - which included Bulgaria, Hungary, Portugal and reigning champions Brazil – with Goodison Park. Although the South American nation didn’t feature in M16 during the tournament, the local crowd were wowed nonetheless by eventual Golden Boot winner Eusebio and Portugal during wins over Hungary and Bulgaria. Later in the tournament, a contest between the two latter sides resulted in a win for Hungary that would eliminate Brazil at the first hurdle of the tournament.
EUBANK v BENN (1993)

While it is mostly known for its footballing heritage, the Theatre of Dreams has played host to its fair share of historic events across other sports, including cricket, baseball and rugby league. But in October 1993, boxing made its bow via a highly anticipated rematch between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn. 42,000 budding spectators watched the former put his WBO title on the line, while the latter offered up his WBC belt, in a fight that was eventually scored as a draw.


Old Trafford hosted the women’s tournament earlier this week and 26 summers ago, it was selected as a host venue for Euro 96. It would prove to be a home from home for eventual winners Germany, who played all three of their group-stage matches and their quarter-final at the ground. Former Red Karel Poborsky also had an evening to remember on our pitch in his national colours, after he and his Czech Republic team-mates defeated France in the penultimate stage of the competition to progress to the final, where they would lose out to the German team at Wembley.
Poborsky went on to sign for United later that summer.

Old Trafford has twice hosted the pinnacle of world rugby league, first in 2000 when Australia overcame New Zealand. Thirteen years later, the match was staged in M16 again with the two nations going head-to-head once more, resulting in the same outcome. The stadium has also hosted every Super League Grand Final since the competition’s inception in 1998. The only year this hasn't happened was in 2020, when the final was played behind closed doors in Hull. While rugby league’s history with Old Trafford goes back a long way, rugby union has also taken place in the grounds previously – twice, in fact. The Theatre of Dreams was the venue for England's matches against New Zealand in 1997 and Argentina in 2009.


It wasn’t until 2001 that the stadium gained a true place in national-team folklore, as the location of David Beckham’s iconic stoppage-time free-kick against Greece that would secure England’s place at the World Cup in the following year. Wembley’s reconstruction in the time that followed soon after meant that Three Lions matches were a regular fixture at Old Trafford up until 2007.
74,468 watched the 2013 Rugby League World Cup final under picturesque skies.

At the conclusion of the 2002/03 campaign, United’s home was the destination for the climax of the Champions League season, contested between Italian giants AC Milan and Juventus. Scenes in the city centre in the build up to the game saw The Independent describe Manchester as ‘Little Italy’ following the invasion of the striped-shirt fans. Despite the vibrancy outside the stadium, what was on the line inside it proved to make for an ultimately underwhelming contest. Despite the 0-0 scoreline after extra-time, it provided the perfect platform for two of the game’s greatest-ever goalkeepers, Milan’s Dida and Juve’s Gianluigi Buffon, to show their qualities. The latter’s dive to keep out Clarence Seedorf was the best effort, but Dida’s saves from David Trezeguet, Marcelo Zalayeta and Paolo Montero helped the Rossoneri to be crowned champions of Europe for the sixth time.


The Theatre of Dreams was one of six arenas across the UK chosen to host football matches at the 2012 Olympic Games. Those fixtures included Team GB men’s opener, a 1-1 draw with Senegal. After several further group-stage and then knockout games took place in Manchester, Old Trafford played host to a semi-final in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. In the male competition, Brazil beat South Korea 3-0, a day after the US women’s side came out on top of a thriller with Canada – triumphing 4-3 after extra-time.
Paolo Maldini hoists the Champions League trophy into the Manchester air after the 2003 final.

Earlier this year, United Women played a historic first Old Trafford game with fans, coming from behind to defeat Everton 3-1. The Reds had played at the ground for the inaugural time in the season prior, but without supporters due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 20,000 – a team record – turned out exactly 12 months on from that behind-closed-doors outing, with a double from Alessia Russo and a Katie Zelem penalty enough for the three WSL points, despite the early scare from the Toffees’ Clare Emslie. 


Under two months on from that memorable day, M16 was the location for another record-breaking crowd, this time in the FA Youth Cup. 67,492 packed into Old Trafford to watch United’s Under-18s in the club’s first appearance in the final since 2011’s triumphant showing. Captain Rhys Bennett’s early goal ensured the young Reds got off to the perfect start, and the night was not to be spoiled even after a first-half Forest equaliser, with Alejandro Garnacho making sure of the success with a double after half-time. Another day for the history books of the Theatre of Dreams, which is becoming something of a theme in 2022.