I have to give in: I am a Manchester United follower (fan would be too much) since the 1990s. In the late years of this decade, I even tripped to Manchester to see Old Trafford Stadium already. Now, 20 years later, being in the city to visit the “Rock of Ages” musical, I decided to go back to the “Theatre of Dreams” and do the Stadium Tour as well as the Museum visit.
Old Trafford – Location & Museum Admission
Using the Manchester Metrolink tram system, none of the stations is really closeby Old Trafford Stadium. The less intuitive option and a bit shorter walk (both are some ten to fifteen minutes) is Exchange Quay. If you opt for the Old Trafford station (which is served by different Metrolink lines), you end up right in front of an Old Trafford Stadium – but unfortunately, it is the cricket one. Both stations are marked in the map below. It was a straight trip from Hilton Hotel Deansgate, where I stayed it. From Manchester Airport, you need to take a longer walk or change trams.
Old Trafford stadium (the soccer one) is UK’s largest privately owned soccer stadium. Apart from the museum, there are quite some investments in the infrastructure. Hotel Football, where you can stay closeby the arena, is one of these amazing add-ons. Its current capacity is roughly 75,000. The saddest impact on Manchester United in the club history, the 1958 Munich plane crash, is still memorated in the Southeast corner of the ground. Apart from a memory plaque, a clock is standing at the time when eleven players and officials lost their lives while returning from a Red Star Belgrade European Cup match. Unfortunately, I missed that there is a public exhibition in the so-called Munich Tunnel.
The museum is located within the stadium. The adult admission is 18 GBP and covers both, museum and the tour of Old Trafford. There are also some combo packages. You are allowed to take pictures everywhere, but you may neither touch nor step on the grass pitch within the stadium.
Manchester United – The Museum
You can either do the tour first or the museum – or do the tour in the midde of your visit. This means that you typically do not waste too much time with waiting. The museum starts in the trophy room. On that level, there is an exhibition of key events in the history of the club. The most impressive room is of course the one dealing with the Munich tragedy. There was another exhibition with about the 50th anniversary of the European Cup victory in 1968. But you also learn funny stuff like the club used to have a goat as a supporting animal in its very early days. There is also a smaller part about the United fans, including more negative aspects like Hooliganism.
On the lower level, the museum is more presenting individual icons than club history. For example, there is a hall of fame of players. Another part shows national team kits of players who play or played for the first squad of the team. Another section deals with the former managers. You even find the current general manager of the recently founded women team, Casey Stoney, there. There are, of course, special sections for legendary Sir Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby. In this area, you can also get a printout stating yourself as the new exceptional Manchester United transfer – very funny souvenir. The Manchester United magazine page without your picture (just your name on) is even for free – more pages are for sale at a comparably reasonable price.
Manchester United – Stadium Tour
If you want to feel the huge popularity of Manchester United, you just need to register online for the stadium tour on a weekend. Tours start every ten minutes, group sizes are in the range of 30 people (so that each tour has two guides, one presenting) – and they sell them out. It is amazing how many people are shown through the Theater of Dreams. Nevertheless, everything is spacious and relaxed, so that neither on the tour nor in the museum, it feels too packed of people.
The tour starts on the ordinary spectator stands. You are shown through the concourses. One of the highlights of the tour, of course, is the recently renovated locker room. You also visit the VIP area, but not the business lounge zone. A very interesting part of the tour is also Manchester United’s support of having physically disabled and even blind spectators in every home game. The latter ones get live commentary via headphone during the match. You also see the press room and the players’ tunnel. There is a lot of information and the presentation is amazing. The tour guides have a lot of humor, so that the 80 minute tour never gets boring.
Manchester United – Megastore & Souvenirs
At the end of the tour, you are directly lead into the Manchester United Megastore (you may go back to the museum from there). The guide named it to be one of the major soccer club mega stores of the world – and of course, it offers quite a lot. I don’t say “everything” on purpose, as I saw quite a lot of strange merchandise stuff over the years. Toasters with a Manchester United logo? Models of the Stadium? Manchester United underwear? At least I did not see this kind of stuff in the store, which is still very impressive. The sheer number of checkouts is amazing.
If you joined the tour, they print you a souvenir certificate of your visit for free – of course, there is a fitting frame for a nominal charge.
Next to the museum, there is the quite cozy Red Cafe, which offers meals and drinks. I liked the atmosphere there – very inviting for a small relax. Prices have been reasonable and the staff was very nice. There is also another small cafe near the start of the stadium tour. Toilets are located at several places, all coloured in red, black and white. They are reasonably clean.
Manchester United – My View
Wow, what a great morning! Manchester United really tries to give you a good value for money. I feel they made it! 18 GBP is an absolutely fair price. The museum is not as posh as the one I saw of FC Porto, but the tour is really cool. I loved the British sense of humor during the presentation of the different stages. So many stories told, so much information given, really cool. Though I have seen quite some stadiums during my work with the German Women Soccer National Team, it has been interesting and entertaining three hours at Old Trafford. If you are in football / soccer, I can absolutely recommend it. Finally, I even had much more fun than in the FIFA World Football Museum.