Part four of our list of Premier League grounds. If you have missed the first three parts then you can catch up here. Listed below is part four of these stadiums and some of our favourite matches and memories from watching United play in them, along with the opposite end of the spectrum – some of our worst matches and memories from United games in these stadiums. Every United fan will have their own favourites and worst ones, but these are the ones that stand out for myself (@Sparkly_Devil1) and Dan (@luzhniki2008) :-
32) Newcastle United – St James Park
Newcastle United have played at this stadium, right in the city centre of Newcastle, since the 19th Century. Between 1992 and 2000, in phases, there was a huge expansion of the stadium taking it up to its current capacity of over 52,000 and making it one of the biggest stadiums in the country. In the mid-1990s, the club did consider moving to the neighbouring Leazes Park. This was due to the difficulty of further expansion on 2 sides of the stadium, until it was rejected for planning reasons. Newcastle were promoted to the Premier League in 1993-94 season and with the exception of one season back in the Championship in the 2009-10 season, have been there ever since. There were plans to further expand the Gallowgate End, taking capacity to over 60,000. However, new owner Mike Ashley and his team have not followed this up. Ashley’s biggest impact on the stadium itself has been putting up huge advertising hoardings, particularly on the stadium roof of his company Sports Direct. He has also used naming rights, with the stadium being known as SportsDirect.com@St James Park. To football fans, it will always be St James Park though. United fans used to be given a corner section of the stadium until the last stage of redevelopment. Since 2000-01, season our fans have been given a section in the high top tier of the Leazes End.
Favourite matches – the 1995-96 1-0 victory there with Eric Cantona’s goal and the performance of his life from Peter Schmeichel, was our most important victory there. Our best perfomance there has to be the 6-2 victory there in 2002-03 – Paul Scholes got a hat-trick that day too.
Worst match – the 5-0 defeat there in 1996-97.
33) Norwich City – Carrow Road
Another long distance away trip for the United players and fans. Norwich were in the Premier League from 1992-93 to 1994-95, for one season in 2004-05 and returned again for this season. Carrow Road is a modern 27,000 stadium which has been redeveloped in stages over the last 30 years or so. United fans are usually given around 2500 tickets for our matches there.
Favourite match – the 1992/93 Monday night match in April, a brilliant performance, especially in the first half which United won 3-1. An important victory, especially as Norwich were a decent side at this time.
Worst match – the 2-0 defeat there in the 2004-05 season. This match was in April and by then it was becoming clear that United would not be winning the league that season. It was a really poor performance by the team that day and a very long journey back home that night.
34) Nottingham Forest -The City Ground
In the 1st Premier League season of 1992-93 Forest were relegated, as Brian Clough’s long and successful time as manager came to a sad end. United capitalised on this by taking Roy Keane from them. Forest returned in 1994-95 and stayed there until the end of 1996-97. They had 1 more season back in the Premier League in 1998-99, but have not been back since. It has been a big decline since the successful times under Brian Clough. Forest have a decent 30,000 plus stadium, with only their main stand really needing re-development. There has been talk of re-building this or even moving to a new stadium, but unlikely to happen any time soon. The 2 stands behind the goals were rebuilt in 1992-93 and 1994-95 – meaning United received only 800 tickets for those games. Since then, United received a very generous 5,000 ticket allocation. This is one of the stadiums missed by United fans who remember going there.
Favourite match – the 8-1 victory there in the 1998-99 treble season, including 4 goals for substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Worst match – United never lost there in the Premier League, however the 1-1 draw there in 1995-96 was one of the games in the notorious grey away which we never won a competitive match in.
35) Oldham Athletic – Boundary Park
Oldham Athletic were in the Premier League for 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. They have not returned since. At the time Boundary Park held just over 17,000 people and United were given a decent allocation of tickets behind the goal. It was a very close away trip for both players and fans. Nowadays, Boundary Park is a 3 sided stadium, with a capacity of just over 10,000 as 1 stand was demolished but has not yet been re-built. There have been plans both to re-develop Boundary Park and also to move to a new stadium.
Favourite match – the 5-2 victory there in December of the 1993-94 season. It was a really cold night, but no United fan would have noticed that with the way United played. It was a great match and a great atmosphere. The ’12 Days of Cantona’ Christmas song really took off there that night as well.
Worst match – the 1-0 defeat there in March 1993. Memories were still fresh in every United fans’ mind of how the team had suffered a loss of form the year before. After that match there was concern that this was happening again. Thankfully it was not, and we went on to win the league.
36) Portsmouth – Fratton Park
Portsmouth is a long away trip for United’s players and fans. It is also one of the most traditional, old-style stadiums that United have played at in the Premier League. Portsmouth were in the Premier League between 2003-04 and 2009-10 seasons. It is uncertain when they will return to the top flight. Capacity at Fratton Park is now around 21,000 and the latest plans seem to be to redevelop the stadium gradually. There were previous large scale plans to re-development Fratton Park and also to build a brand new stadium on Portsmouth’s waterfront – neither of which happened. The away section at Portsmouth was probably one of the worst for United fans, especially before a roof was finally put over the away end in 2007-08. Facilities are very basic in there and it is extremely cramped, particularly in the gangway at the back of the stand. United’s record at Fratton Park was definitely mixed – winning as many as we’ve lost.
Favourite match – Our 1st Premier League win at Fratton Park in 2005-06, having lost our 2 previous trips there. The match, in February 2006 was a Saturday early evening kick off and there was a surprisingly good atmosphere in the United section, despite the heavy rain and a lack of a roof. United won 3-1 with Ronaldo getting 2 goals.
Worst match – the 1st visit there in 2003-04 stands out. Returning home from Fratton Park is a long trip when you’ve lost and especially that day in April 2004 when we lost 2-1 there. There was a realisation that day that we were likely to lose our Premier League title to Arsenal. The only good thing was Rio Ferdinand, who was banned at the time for forgetting his drugs test, talking to United fans and signing autographs during a break in the TV studio he was working in above the away section. The 2006-07 defeat there wasn’t good either, but at least we won the league in the end.
37) Queens Park Rangers – Loftus Road
With the exception of putting seats in place of terraces, Loftus Road has largely been unchanged for decades. Capacity at Loftus Road is about 19,000 and it is extremely difficult for the club to expand the stadium beyond this. Inside the ground, it feels incredibly tight in there and every possible effort has been made to maximise capacity. One of the best things is the fact that seats are so close to the pitch, and also the layout helps to generate noise and a decent atmosphere when the stadium is full. QPR have been taken over by Air Asia Boss Tony Fernandes recently, so it is unsure what will happen long term with future plans for Loftus Road at the moment. QPR were in the Premier League from 1992/93 to 1995/96 and have returned for the 2011/12 Season. United had a great record in the 1990s there and it is hard to pick a best or worst match. 3 great victories and even the last one which they drew 1-1 in March 1996 is remembered well. In that 1996 Eric Cantona scored a late equaliser, which symbolised his and United’s determination not to give up that season. Lots of happy memories for United fans of that stadium for our Premier League games against QPR.
38) Reading – Madejski Stadium
When United visited the Madejski Stadium in 2006, it was a big contrast to when they played at reading’s old Elm Park Stadium in the FA Cup in 1996. The new 24,000 Reading Stadium was named after their owner John Madejski. The design of this stadium was followed at Hull’s KC Stadium. The club has planning permission to extend the stadium’s capacity up to 38,000, but this depends on their future league status and financial situation. Reading were in the Premier League for 2 seasons 2006-07 and 2007-08. They have been close to returning since then as well.
Favourite match – 2007/08 – the 2-0 victory there with Rooney and Ronaldo scoring.
Worst match – 2006/07 – the 1-1 draw there, with Ronaldo scoring. Not really a bad match and it was good to see Ronaldo’s response after getting abuse from the Reading fans after that summer’s World Cup when Rooney got sent off in the Portugal vs England match, with Ronaldo being seen on TV winking when this happened. Ronaldo still had the backing of the United fans then, like with Beckham in 1998.
39) Sheffield United – Bramhall Lane
Sheffield United were in the Premier League for the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, then back for the 2006-07 season only. In the 1990s, United had numerous visits to Bramhall Lane in the FA Cup as well, so it was a stadium United players and fans knew very well. Bramhall Lane today is a modern 32,000 plus Stadium with facilities on all 4 sides being improved significantly since the early 1990s. The club have plans to extend the stadium capacity to over 40,000, but that depends on finances and the club’s league status. The stadium itself is very close to the city centre as well. United always received decent ticket allocations too, so it was a popular away trip for United fans.
Favourite match – Season 1993-94 – a midweek night match there in December 1993 saw a great atmosphere and great United performance, with a 3-0 win.
Worst match – Season 1992-93 – United’s 1st ever Premier League match, which we lost 2-1. It was a terrible start to the season for United and would get worse in the next home match, losing 3-0 at home to Everton. This was made worse because it was only a few months after the terrible end to United’s 1991-92 Season.
40) Sheffield Wednesday – Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday were in the Premier League from 1992-93 to 1999-2000. They have not been back since. Hillsborough was another popular away trip for United fans due to the decent ticket allocations we received, and the decent view in the large Upper Tier of the Leppings Lane stand behind the goal. Hillsborough holds about 40,000 and is basically unchanged since the mid-1990s, when it hosted matches at Euro 1996. Hillsborough is another stadium that United had mixed results at – a combination of wins, draws and defeats.
Favourite match – the 3-3 draw on Boxing Day 1992. From being 3-0 down, United produced a brilliant comeback to draw 3-3 with 2 goals from Brian McClair and a late equaliser from Eric Cantona. That was probably the day when Eric Cantona truly became a United player and learnt what the club’s fighting spirit is all about.
Worst match – the 2-0 defeat there in March 1998. United lost ground on Arsenal who would go on to a league and FA Cup double.
41) Southampton – The Dell
The Dell was a truly unique stadium to visit. Fans in the stadium were extremely close to the pitch and it created a great atmosphere there. Following it being made all seater, The Dell held only 15,000 and there was no way of expanding the stadium much bigger than this. The 2 stands along the side of pitch dated back to the 1920s and were wooden, meaning that smoking was banned long before it was made law in this country. United fans received 1500 tickets along the side of the pitch – a small allocation at the time. Southampton left this stadium at the end of the 2000-01 season and it really was the end of an era. They had been in the Premier League since it began in 1992-93 in this stadium. United had some very interesting trips here, which won’t be forgotten.
Favourite match – the 1999-2000 match in April 2000, where a 3-1 win clinched another Premier League title for the club. A great atmosphere there that day and it was nice for us to have some happy memories there, after the difficult matches of previous seasons. The chant ‘Every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson’ chant really took off that day as well.
Worst matches – the 2 matches in 1996 share this. In April 1996 United, who were 3-0 down at half time, changed kits, from the shocking grey kit, to the blue and white 3rd kit. The match finished 3-1 and United’s title hopes were dented. However, the media and fans of other clubs loved the change of kit at half time and had great fun at the club’s expense. United returned to the Dell a few months later in October 1996 and it was an even worse performance, in the blue and white 3rd kit, with United losing 6-3.