Renovate or rebuild? Sir Jim Ratcliffe reveals ‘preference’ for Old Trafford future

ir Jim Ratcliffe has outlined his “preference” for Manchester United to build a brand new Old Trafford, potentially partly funded by taxpayer money, somewhere on the current site rather than carry out a refurbish job on the existing stadium.

Old Trafford has stood where it is since 1910, but the once revered venue has fallen behind the likes of the Emirates, Etihad, Tottenham Hotspur and Wembley. No major works have been carried out since 2006, with that most recent expansion signed off before the Glazer takeover.

Redevelopment of the current stadium has long proven a headache due to the proximity of a railway across the back of the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand. But with swathes of club-owned land adjacent currently used for car parking prime for building on, a new stadium 100 or so yards to the left might be the best option given that the other is upping sticks altogether.

“I mean, it’s an impressive stadium and it’s the largest Premier League stadium in the country – the second-largest stadium in the country to Wembley, I suppose,” Ratcliffe told as he explained his vision for the future of Old Trafford.

“But it’s not quite of the standard you would expect of Manchester United today and it’s fallen behind. Maybe 20 years ago, it was [at the standard], but today, it’s fallen behind.”

“We do need to look at the way forward for the stadium, the redevelopment of that stadium, and that there are clearly two roads we could take: we could refurbish the existing stadium or we could look at building a new stadium. And that’s what we’re looking at, at the moment.”

Speaking to the BBC, Ratcliffe appeared to nail his colours to the mast of rebuilding, part of a wider urban regeneration project to breathe new life into the traditionally industrial Trafford Park area. The British billionaire specifically wants something that could rival Wembley, suggesting the government could even help fund such a project if there was to be a national interest in its creation.

In his eyes, simply renovating the existing Old Trafford “wouldn’t be perfect” due to its overall age.

“It’s about time someone built a national stadium in the north of England. If it can be achieved, it would clearly be my preference. I would be very excited for the north of England,” he explained.

“Trafford Park is where the industrial revolution began. If you look at that region of Manchester today – only a mile from the centre – it is tired and neglected and parts are quite run down.

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“There is quite a big argument, in my view, for regenerating that whole south side of Manchester. The nucleus of it would be building a new world-class state-of-the-art stadium which could take England games, the FA Cup final, Champions League finals. It could serve the north of England.”

His argument continued, suggesting the north of England suffers compared to the south when it comes to government funding and projects of this nature.

“There is a bias in the UK in terms of where national stadiums have been built – they are all in the south,” Ratcliffe said. “There is a lot of talk about levelling up. HS2 has been cancelled and all that is going to be spent on the rail network in London. The people in the north pay their taxes just as the people in the south.

“Why shouldn’t there be a venue in the north of England for England to play at? Why does everyone in the north have to go to the south for the semi-finals of the FA Cup? I think, as part of a regeneration project, there has to be a conversation with the national government. The north deserves some thought as well as the south, I think, if it is a national stadium.”

Source: 90mins

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