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As a lifelong Gooner, I have come to regard Old Trafford as the home of the Forces of Darkness rather than the Theatre of Dreams. I find the way in which Manchester United have dominated English football in recent years rather galling to say the least, and the arrogance of Ferguson in particular is enough to make me reach for the mute button when he appears on TV.
However, the purpose of this review is not to bring up my personal feelings towards Manchester United, no matter how much I may dislike them. The fact that I have visited Old Trafford more times (once) than most Manchester United fans is obviously completely irrelevant as well.
So, obligatory ManUre baiting out of the way, onto Old Trafford...
My first visit to this undeniably impressive stadium was yesterday afternoon. As an Arsenal fan, I was lucky enough to secure a ticket to the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham. Quite frankly, I am still buzzing from the whole experience.
The Stadium itself is visible for miles around. The oustide is certainly striking, if not beautiful, and the sense of anticipation I felt as I walked from the train station up to the ground with thousands of other Gooners is unmatched by any other game I have been to. Transport links to the stadium appear to be reasonably good; the Metro seems very efficient, but I was with a Manchester resident who was able to show me all the best routes.
First impressions were of the sheer scale of the place. Nowhere I have been apart from Wembley even comes close. Getting inside was painless; the turnstiles aren't those stupid full-height things you get at Highbury, and everything is well signposted.
The inside of the stand was a little disappointing. The whole place felt unfinished, as if the plasterers had done their job but the decorators hadn't got around to painting the walls yet. Apparently it's meant to be like that, but I just thought it looked silly. The stairs I had to climb to reach the seats also seemed oddly temporary, like flimsy metal things that could fall to bits at any moment.
Dodgy decoration apart, the facilities inside are as good as in any other stadium. Of course there aren't enough toilets, and why they bother putting in handbasins I don't know (tip: noone ever washes their hands at football matches because people pee in the basins). I can't comment on what the food is like, as I was unwilling to fork out a month's salary for a burger. Again, expensive food is common to all grounds.
Once I got to my seat, I realised just how big Old Trafford is. I mean, it's huge. Absolutely massive. The TV just doesn't do it justice. the atmosphere in the ground on this particular day was overwhelming. Half the ground was full of Arsenal fans, the other half full of Spurs, and with both sets of fans trying to shout each other down, the noise was incredible. However, for some bizarre reason, Old Trafford seems to have a stupid sounds system which plays music as pre-match entertainment. Fair enough, but it's too loud. Even worse, the system increases volume as crown noise gets louder, thus effectively killing any atmosphere in the build up. Oh, and the announcer was rubbish.
As the game progressed, it became clear that, though the atmosphere was amazing, Old Trafford appears to have neither a decent sized scoreboard or big screens, both something that should be included in any half decent stadium.
Big doesn't necessarily mean best, and personally I found Old Trafford a little to clinical; more of a homage to the commercially driven world of football than a shrine to the game itself. But what did I expect? It is the home of Man Utd after all. I went expecting to find one of the best stadia in the world. I was disappointed. Old Trafford is great in it's own right, but not as good as I had expected. I would take Highbury over Old Trafford any day. But then I'm biased.
Biased ? Surely not, I thought only Man U fans were biased and arrogant. Your comment about having been more times than most Man u fans shows the childishness that exists in many supporters, so what if United have a big following from all over the world ? Biased ? Jealous maybe.