The new Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reportedly hoping to turn Old Trafford into the “Wembley of the North”, teasing ambitious plans to redevelop the club and its ageing stadium, as well as potentially reaching out to the government for extra funding.
Ratcliffe and the INEOS Group completed their 25% purchase of the football club on Christmas Eve 2023 and have gradually been laying foundations to rebuild the club and its infrastructure, such as installing Sir Dave Brailsford. Updating their iconic home ground is also at the top of the agenda for a lot of fans.
Speaking to Telegraph Sport in an exclusive interview, sources close to Ratcliffe have relayed that the British billionaire “feels the club needs an absolute state-of-the-art, knock-it-out-of-the-park, ‘wow’ stadium” to compete with the likes of the Etihad, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and, of course, Wembley.
For anyone who’s been living under a rock over the past few seasons, not only has the level of football and success declined in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson years at United but so too have the Old Trafford facilities, with numerous clips of leaks, even crumbling debris and more going viral.
Nevertheless, the Failsworth-born businessman and his executive team apparently “feel there’s a strong argument for the country having a top-class major venue in the North – a Wembley of the North”, and that with the right investment Old Trafford can become that location.
While there had been some calls to bulldoze the site altogether and build a brand-new stadium, especially when Qatari investors were still looking to buy the club outright, the question of whether to renovate or start again is a sticking point for many, including Ratcliffe himself.
The report goes on to state that Ratcliffe is “broadly opposed to the idea of United having to relocate but believes supporters would be amenable to the idea of a world-leading new stadium on land immediately surrounding Old Trafford, the club’s home for the past 114 years.”
As the sources go on to say, “The spiritual home is important” but they did go on to add that “We think the fans would be quite happy to accept a brand new stadium if we stay where we are.”
Other key features that the current stadium lacks include reliable public WiFi and a screen for VAR decisions, which more and more clubs now have as standard given its prevalence in the modern game.
However, the problem presented by simply refurbishing the existing structure is that as the likes of Chris Lee, the managing director of Populous — the architectural designers overseeing the project — already told the outlet in December that a new stadium may end up being the cheapest option long-term.
They went on to insist that “the building is reaching the end of its natural life”, detailing that “the cabling, the electricity supplies, everything is nearing its sell-by date”. The question is, Reds, would you update the existing Old Trafford or knock it down and start again?
Featured Images — Ank Kumar (via Wikimedia Commons)
Stockport County create a new community mural with young street artists in Edgeley
Stockport County is creating a brand new mural with a group of young street artists from the local area and a little help from one of their squad members.
This past February half-term, the Greater Manchester football club enlisted the help of some schoolkids and aspiring artists, along with local creatives from around the area to create a brand new piece of artwork right in the heart of the community.
With some paint, plenty of spray cans and the expertise of Manc muralist and designer, Oskar With A K, and poet Ruth Awolola, a dozen local secondary school pupils helped write, design and paint the mural — taking inspiration directly from the club and the thriving fan culture in Stockport.
There is no chant more iconic and important to the Hatters than their famous ‘The Scarf My Father Worse’ song and that’s exactly what the local artists have decided to immortalise.
The painting process began on Friday, 16 February and, as you can see, they even managed to rope in County defender Ethan Pye came along to lend a hand with the mural, armed with a can of spray paint to help the young people bring their ideas to life.
Being developed by the Stockport County Community Trust in collaboration with North West organisations, GRIT Studios and The Writing Squad, ‘The Scarf My Father Wore’ project has received £14,800 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Popping in a prime location on the corner of Castle Street and Mercian Way — just metres away from the Edgeley Park stadium and right at the beginning of the local village high street — this vibrant work of art will be passed by thousands of commuters and pedestrians every day.
Being brought to life in brilliant blue and white in line with the club’s colour scheme and proudly printing the title of the famous chant on the wall along with stencils of the County crest, footballs and many other details, it sits pride of place in the Stockport suburb.
Much like the historic chant and the symbolic scarf itself, this brilliant piece of street art will be passed down and enjoyed by generations to come, as well as make sure the club continues to play a key role in local culture.
County’s Community Trust CEO Alison Warwood said: “This project shows how art and writing by young people can make a real difference to the local community, and I can’t wait to see the end result.”
John Macaulay from GRIT Studios added: “We’re thrilled to be involved in such a collaborative and community-spirited initiative. Our young artists will be helping to create a lasting landmark that will become a focal point in Edgeley for years to come.”
With the Hatters currently top of the League Two table and looking at yet another promotion season, there feels like no better time for fans to wear the club on their sleeve, their scarves around their necks and now up on the wall too.
Manchester City legend Joe Hart announces he will be retiring at the end of the season
Manchester City legend and ex-England international Joe Hart has announced he will be retiring at the end of the season, bringing a close to a career spanning over two decades.
The iconic Man City keeper and former Three Lions goalkeeper played 266 games for the Blues and had 75 senior caps, but has finally decided to call it a day at the age of 36.
Currently in net for Scottish giants Celtic, who are going for an incredible 54th league title this season, the number one and long-serving English keeper confirmed in a club interview that he will be hanging up his gloves at the end of this campaign.
He also represented his country at three major international tournaments but says he is now in a “place of clarity” and confident in his decision, with manager Brendan Rodgers insisting he will be a “huge miss to the game”. Truly the end of an era.
🧤 Joe Hart announces that he will be retiring from playing football at the end of this season.
Joe Hart is retiring after 20 years at the top level.
Having spent 12 years at City between 2006-2018 and making over 340 appearances in the Premier League at the likes of Burnley, West Ham and a handful for Spurs in club competitions, not to mention nearly a century of games for Celtic since 2021 already, it’s fair to call Joe Hart a footballing veteran.
All told, he has made over 700 appearances at club level and even more all-told, with half of a blockbuster season in Scotland still yet to go. Quite the achievement.
Most famously back here in Manchester though, not only did he pick up four golden gloves during his time at the Etihad but he was also in net for the Aguero goal when the Blues won their first league title in 44 years, and his reaction to the stoppage time winner is almost just as memorable as the strike itself.
But, more importantly, he had plenty of highlight reels of his own.
Speaking to Celtic TV following the announcement, the Shrewsbury-born shot-stopper said: “This something that I have thought about for a while, there’s no right or wrong time is there?…
“Physically I feel great — I feel as good as I possibly can do for my age and what I have done to my body, I have been on the bench since I was 15 and have been involved in professional football every day since I was 16.
“I have gone down every avenue to keep myself in the best possible shape to give my all on game day and I do really think I am at that peak, but I am aware time waits for no man and I don’t want my body to be retiring me. That was one of the key factors, thinking I can smash through the finish line.”