TF Chronicles – The Premier League Grounds Part One

Since the Premier League started in 1992, football has changed on a huge scale – especially due to television coverage not only in the UK, but globally. Added to this, media interest has grown, not just on the back pages of newspapers, but also interest in players’ private lives growing massively. The huge growth and development in the internet has further expanded worldwide interest in football in this country, especially Manchester United. There has been a huge amount of investment in football stadia over this time, the likes of which have never been seen before. In this time, United have played in over 50 different stadiums in Premier League games – which is partly down to teams being relegated and promoted as has always been the case. However, over this period a significant number of teams have left their old grounds, moving to new purpose built stadiums. Listed below is part one 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 Kim (@Sparkly_Devil1) and myself (@Luzhniki2008):-

1. Manchester United – Old Trafford
In the summer of 1992, United started the Premier League stadium with a 3 sided stadium as the old Stretford End was demolished that summer, to be replaced by the new West Stand as it was to be known on completion. This was just the beginning of the expansion though, as the capacity on completion of this was an all seater 44,000 Stadium. This was clearly far too low, so in 1995-96 construction began on the massive North Stand, which took capacity back to over 55,000. Again, this was seen as too low, so in 1999-2000 new stands were built at the back of the existing East and West Stands, taking capacity to around 68,000. In 2003 Old Trafford was rewarded with a Champions League Final in recognition of what an amazing stadium it was. In 2005-06 more developments happened – the building of the 2 quadrants either side of the North Stand – taking capacity to its current level of almost 76,000. Without doubt, one of the true great stadiums of the world. During this time, we have witnessed so many incredible games, late winners, amazing comebacks and it is hard to single out one match. However, lifting the Premier League trophy on so many occasions there is an incredible achievement by the club, especially the ones in 1993 (1st title for 26 years), 1999 (part of The Treble), 2008 (part of League and Champions League Double) and 2011 (title 19 eclipsing Liverpool’s 18). Every Manchester United supporter should be immensely proud of what we have achieved in that stadium, not just in the Premier League years, but also in the 100+ years since the club moved there. The decision to stay on the Old Trafford site and re-develop the stadium in the last 20 years looks like the right decision, rather than moving to a purpose built stadium on the outskirts of Manchester, where we would have to start all over again with the history of the stadium. The future for Old Trafford’s further development is unclear, especially under the current ownership by the Glazers. To build over the railway line in the South Stand, replicating what was done in the North Stand would take capacity to over 90,000 – making it bigger than Wembley Stadium.

2. Arsenal – Highbury
Without doubt, Highbury was one of the most historic stadiums in the Premier League when Arsenal played there. The East and West Stands which ran along the sides of the pitch remained virtually unchanged since they were built in the 1930’s. The North Bank was re-built as the Premier League season began in 1992 and during that season, a mural was put up to hide the building work, with a painted crowd scene. The capacity of just over 38,000 was clearly too small for matches at Highbury so the club had no choice but to leave, as they were turning away up to 20,000 fans per match due to this. The club left Highbury in 2007 and Highbury was re-developed into luxury apartments, preserving the exterior of the historic East and West Stands. One of the best things about Highbury as an away fan was being so close to the pitch and feeling a part of the action, which is missed now.
Favourite match – 4-2 victory there in 2004-05 night match there. Amazing atmosphere, dramatic match and the scene of the famous Keane and Vieira confrontation in the tunnel before the match.
Worst match – The 3-1 defeat there in 2001-02 – came at a bad time for the club – this, at the time was meant to be Alex Ferguson’s final season at United and was a bad month. We had already lost 4-0 in the League Cup there that month and following this, we would lose 3-0 at home to Chelsea in the League.

3. Arsenal – Emirates Stadium
Arsenal moved here in the summer of 2006. The stadium holds just over 60,000 people and cost the club approximately £490 million to build – a huge investment. The stadium itself is very similar to Benfica’s Stadium of Light built a couple of years earlier. So far, United have had mixed fortunes at this stadium in the league.
Favourite match – 2009-10 – our 3-1 victory there in January – one of our best away performances of the season, led by Nani.
Worst match – 2006-07 – our first visit there. Blowing a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 right at the end of the match.

4. Aston Villa – Villa Park
Being drawn against Villa in League Cup and FA Cup games, plus the staging of FA Cup semi-finals there, prior to the new Wembley Stadium being built, means Villa Park is a stadium Manchester United know very well. Villa Park has had a huge amount of re-building work done on 3 sides of the ground during the Premier League years. The removal of the historic Trinity Road (Main) Stand was not popular with fans of traditional football grounds though.
Favourite match – 1993-94 early in the season, wearing the new black away kit. It was a great night game, won with 2 great goals by an in-form Lee Sharpe.
Worst match – 1995-96 – opening match of the season, wearing the unlucky grey and fielding a young side, following departure of Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis. United lost 3-1. The match is probably best remembered here for Alan Hansen’s analysis of the match that night on Match of the Day. Hansen famously stated that United would win nothing with kids! He is still haunted by that comment to this day.

5. Barnsley – Oakwell
Barnsley were only in the Premier League for 1 season – 1997-98. Barnsley turned out to be the last away game of the season and our fans hopefully saw it as a title decider or title celebration. However, by then Arsenal had won the League and it was a 2-0 end of season match, with less significance. Most memorable thing from the day – all our fans were in the uncovered away section behind the goal and it rained heavily. Credit to Pete Boyle for trying to raise our spirits, holding up his match ticket and singing ’15 quid, that’s the truth, where the f##king hell’s the roof?’. That match wasn’t our 1st visit to Oakwell that season as we were there in February, where a weakened United side lost an FA Cup replay to Barnsley. We returned there again in October 2009 for a League Cup victory. By then there was a new stand and a roof for our fans, which Pete Boyle had asked for 11 years earlier.

6. Blackburn Rovers – Ewood Park
As the Premier League began, Blackburn were the biggest spenders on players, thanks to their owner Jack Walker. This led to them being challengers for the title in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons, but after this it did not last and since then they have been nowhere near challenging the top clubs in the league. Along with spending on players, Jack Walker invested in the ground – redeveloping 3 sides of the ground during 1993 and 1994 to give them a stadium fit for the top flight. Ewood Park is a hugely popular away trip for United fans due to it being easily our biggest away allocation in the league each season, helping to create a great atmosphere in the away end.
Favourite match – not the best match, but the most significant – 2010-11 Season – a 1-1 draw there in May was enough to clinch our record breaking 19th League Title. There were huge celebrations amongst the players, staff and fans that day – a truly historic moment in the club’s history.
Worst match – the 2-0 defeat in 1993-94 was a bad day, but we went on to win the league. The 1-0 defeat in May 2004 felt worse as it was a shocking performance that day and United had already lost the League title to Chelsea before the match.

7. Blackpool – Bloomfield Road
Blackpool have only been in the Premier League for one season – 2010-11 and United’s visit there was a memorable one. Tickets for this were one of the most difficult to come by, with an allocation of less than 1500 in a temporary stand along the side of the pitch. The other 3 sides of Bloomfield Road had been redeveloped in recent years. United won the game 3-2, after being 2-0 down at half-time – a classic United comeback, which won’t be forgotten.

8. Bolton Wanderers – Burnden Park

United only played 1 Premier League match at Burnden Park – in 1995-96 and what a game that was – a 6-0 win. By that time, Burnden Park had clearly seen better days. Capacity had fallen to less than 25,000 with the majority of it being terracing. In addition, behind one of the goals, Bolton had been forced to sell off land to build a Normid Superstore on the space covered by half of the terracing in the 1980’s. It made re-development a big problem there and the club would have to move. The United match there in March 1996, was a great one for United fans. English stadiums were made all seater in 1994, but Bolton were given special permission to keep the terraces there, until their new stadium was built. As a result, United fans were given an open standing terrace (luckily it did not rain that day) which gave a great atmosphere. This was helped by the complete hatred Bolton fans had for United too. Defeat for Bolton that day contributed towards them being relegated at the end of the season.

9. Bolton Wanderers – Reebok Stadium
Bolton returned to the Premier League with their newly opened 28,000+ capacity Reebok Stadium in 1997-98. An impressively designed stadium for them and a big contrast to the old Burnden Park Stadium.
Favourite match – this season’s 5-0 victory there stands out as our best performance there, with a Rooney hat-trick. Prior to this season, it would be the 4-0 victory in 2006-07 – another match in which Rooney scored a hat-trick for us.
Worst match – Losing 1-0 there in 2007-08. Bad day and heavy rain summed it all up.

10. Burnley – Turf Moor
United have only played 1 match in the Premier League and it is one to forget – a 1-0 defeat at the start of the 2009-10 season. 2 sides of Turf Moor have been redeveloped with modern stands. Naturally Burnley housed the United fans in one of the old stands. Although it was not a good visit for United that day, United had a happier visit there in 2002-03 for the League Cup. United won that game 2-0, with Diego Forlan scoring, only a couple of days after he got those 2 goals at Anfield.

For Part Two of The Premier League Grounds by Dan (@luzhniki2008) and Kim (@sparkly_devil1) click here

About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.

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