United co-owner keen to rebuild Old Trafford as ‘national stadium in the north’

Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium

A new stadium for Manchester United is firmly on the agenda for new co-owner, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

In his first media interviews since acquiring a 27.7% stake in his boyhood club for around £1.3bn he spoke about the need to, at least, revamp the Old Trafford ground, which he described as “tired”, or completely rebuild it, which he believes is a “no brainer”.

Current estimates cost a refurbishment of Old Trafford at £1bn, and a new stadium at £2bn.

His ambition builds on moves which first emerged two years ago when the club revealed it was considering a range of options on ground development, including knocking down the stadium and rebuilding on the existing site.

Old Trafford is the largest club football stadium in the UK with a capacity of 74,310 and one of the most iconic in world football with more than a century of glorious history as United’s home ground.

In April, 2022, the club appointed a team of consultants to begin work on creating a Masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford, led by Legends International and Populous, who both have experience of stadium developments around the world.

Old Trafford has gone through multiple phases of development and redevelopment through the decades.

The proposal, two years ago, of demolishing the existing ground was welcomed by former United full back, now property developer, Gary Neville, who said it was “the right move”.

In an Instagram video post at the time he said: “I think by the time that they have spent money on Old Trafford, the existing one, then I think you would be better off building a brand new, better, super stadium. I do think that Manchester United should always be at the forefront of stadiums, have the best facilities and they have fallen behind.”

Neville owns Hotel Football, located next to Old Trafford.

Sir Jim, billionaire owner of chemicals giant INEOS, said he is keen to work with Neville on his forthcoming plans for the club, and the stadium.

He believes it is possible to build a new stadium next to the existing ground, in Trafford Park, although his wish to attract public funding as part of any rebuilding project could prove controversial.

In an interview with the BBC he said: “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 added: “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.

“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.

“There is a bias in the UK in terms of where national stadiums have been built – they are all in the south. 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?”

However, his ambition to host such prestigious fixtures would be at odds with the English Football Association which owns the current national stadium, Wembley, where most of England’s national games, and flagship FA Cup ties, are played.

If the club proceeds with building a new stadium, Sir Jim believes Old Trafford could be retained, but reduced in size, to stage games for the club’s ladies’ and academy teams, as well as allowing local teams to use the facilities as a community asset.