Steph Doehler is a Manchester United fan and respected MUFC blogger. Here are her thoughts on the atmosphere issues at Old Trafford. The Faithful welcomes Steph to our site
There’s been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the famous, or should I say infamous, atmosphere at Old Trafford. Monday night generated a lot of criticism in particular, partly it should be noted due to United’s lacklustre on field performance against Fulham. But who’s fault is this lack of noise inside the ground? Who is right to criticise? And what, if anything, can or will be done about it?
First things first, I wasn’t at the game on Monday night. Having started a new job that very same day I thought it was a bit naughty to ask to leave early to travel up the M6 for a spot of entertainment. Therefore I can only base my opinions on what came through my television. And yes, at times, there was barely a hush around the ground. As we all know, crowd noise is often filtered somewhat through the TV but nevertheless what I could hear was severely limited, the crowd becoming increasingly frustrated with the team at the match progressed. However I found the response on Twitter really quite interesting.
There seemed to be more talk of the atmosphere than the match itself, albeit partially due to the lack of talking points no doubt. But still, is it fair for someone watching the game from the comfort of their living room, or the pub, to criticise those who actually went to the match? For me, no, it’s not fair. It’s easy for us to sit at home and berate others but to what avail? If you are that upset about the lack of noise, get yourself to matches and sing yourself. The words “embarrassing” “pathetic” “silent” continuously cropped up on my timeline, and whilst I agree with the sentiments (at times the noise levels are embarrassingly poor considering the number of people inside the ground) those not at the game really have no right to pass judgement.
I have been at Old Trafford plenty of times over the last few seasons, sitting in every stand. There is no doubt that some areas are “better” than others in terms of noise. As expected the Stretford End sings its way through most games, the East Stand has bursts of excitement and getting a song going in the SAF and South Stands can be like raising the dead. I’ve seen supporters try to do it and it’s painful to watch!
But what am I at matches? Well I can honestly say it depends where I’m sitting. If in the Stretford End, where I have been a few times more recently, then of course, like everyone else I join in for 90 minutes and love everything about being inside the ground. However other areas are different. I tend to be a bit of a thinker at matches, I like to pay more attention to the play, the players, the opposition and so on.
Obviously I have more opportunity to do that when situated elsewhere on match days. But nothing feels the same as standing in the Stretty, a buzz rarely felt elsewhere. To me, match going fans are the only ones who can really complain. Those who try in vain to get their block up on their feet, singing for the club.
So what can be done about it? Well already supporters groups are working closely with United to create a new singing section in the East Stand lower for next season. That’s certainly a good start. The East, obviously being opposite ends to the Stretty, means their noise tends to get lost across the ground, therefore having vocal sections at both ends can improve the overall volume. Of course the club’s proposal of moving away fans up to SAF Tier 3 will counter this and prevent any real banter between both sets of supporters, which is perhaps one of the few redeeming features of sitting close to away fans.
The fact is, and will always be, atmospheres in football grounds across the country are not what they were years ago – Manchester United is no exception. As with any club, if a Wigan or a Fulham come travelling the excitement won’t be the same as if United or Chelsea come visiting for example. And it’s not just the smaller clubs this happens to, The Emirates has long been criticised for its atmosphere. The Etihad is the same. Although perhaps part of their issue is getting fans inside the ground in the first place. For years people have raved about Anfield’s volumes, “The Kop this…” “The Kop that…” watch Liverpool vs Blackburn on a Monday night and you’ll fail to recognise that “famous, spine tingling” atmosphere that is championed so often.
The atmosphere at Old Trafford is poor. Considering the 76,000 people that attend most matches it should be far better. But I would certainly state that it’s not much better or worse than many other grounds up and down the country. Bring back terracing? Introduce more singing areas? Suggestions could go on and on but the fact remains, which clubs are generating millions of pounds each home match their interest in raising the volumes is probably not at the top of their priority list.
My main suggestion, for what it’s worth, if you don’t like the atmosphere at Old Trafford then get to matches and do something about it, rather than taking to Twitter to criticise something you aren’t involved in.