Man United v Chelsea: A Visit to Old Trafford
Today is a convenient time to wrap up my articles about the EPL Talk Tour that I took in November. The tour took me to England for five matches in 10 days, where I reported my experiences via the blog, podcast and Flickr account.
The last day of my journey was to Old Trafford to see Manchester United against Chelsea.
It’s incredible to think how much has happened since that 1-1 match and today. It was my first visit inside Old Trafford. In 1995, I visited the stadium during the offseason but found the stadium tour sold out, so I went into the megastore and museum instead.
In fact, that was the first thing I noticed. How much the outside of Old Trafford had changed in just over 10 years. The megastore had moved from outside the ground to inside the stadium.
Arriving at Old Trafford this time approximately four hours before the match, I strolled around the outside of the ground taking in the sights and looking for unsuspecting fans to interview for the EPL Talk Podcast. There were plenty of people to choose from as hundreds of fans were already there.
While Stamford Bridge is crammed inside an expensive part of west London without much additional space (other than the Chelsea hotel), Old Trafford and the surrounding space (including parking lots) is absolutely massive. It’s incredible to think how this ground has been transformed over the decades without losing any of its character.
Fast forwarding to the match, I entered Old Trafford with one of my best friends from Wales (who drove up for the match) about 30 minutes before kickoff. Walking up the steps and into the theatre of dreams was a beautiful sight to see. A sea of red seats, a bright green pitch and a massive stadium that wrapped around me.
The match itself wasn’t a classic. Both teams cancelled each other out with United controlling the first half and the Blues controlling the second. What surprised me the most, despite the 76,000+ fans, was the lack of noise. There were many spells during this game when the sound disappeared and all that could be heard were murmurs. If the fans can’t get excited about a game of this magnitude, it’s a sorry state indeed.
The Chelsea fans in the away end created an impressive sound. Throughout my EPL Talk tour, I was impressed by all of the away supporters I saw at matches (Bolton, Spurs, Hamburg, Reading and now Chelsea). It’s more expensive due to travel and other expenses, but if I was living in the UK again, I’d rather be an away supporter travelling with the die-hard fans than be at home to hear the relative silence.
Still, Old Trafford was an impressive experience overall. The history was there (the clock displayed on the outside of the stadium in memory of the Munich Air Disaster). The stadium facilities were excellent. Overall, the entire experience of visiting Old Trafford was a pleasure.
Here’s a map of the stadiums that EPL Talk visited during the tour (see below). Click on the map to zoom in for close-ups of the stadiums, etc.