As the debate around the redevelopment of Old Trafford rages on, it’s worth remembering that one of their Premier League rivals faces similar issues.
By summer of 2010, Manchester United and Chelsea were the two best teams in England. They had won a combined eight league titles between them in the past decade.
It was no surprise then, that talk soon turned of expanding their respective stadiums, or even moving to a new location. But both projects have not made quick progress.
While Manchester United and Chelsea have not made huge changes, their rivals at home and abroad have struck their advantage. In 2009, just three years after the last expansion, it was said that there were plans to increase Old Trafford’s capacity to 95,000 – making it the largest football stadium in the country. Meanwhile, the expansion of Stamford Bridge was a long-standing mission of Roman Abramovich.
Both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge have railway lines next to them. While it is thought that building over the lines would now be feasible, it wouldn’t be straightforward.
Then there’s the issue of the ownership. The Glazers have taken an estimated £1bn out of Old Trafford and only now is there tangible work going on to improve the stadium.
Abramovich appeared far more willing to invest in Chelsea’s home. However, plans for a major redesign were put on hold in 2018 when the Home Office did not grant the Russian a visa to continue working in the UK.
There has been ongoing deliberation too about whether to move to an entirely new location. There is free land next to Old Trafford, while Chelsea have pondered moves to a then disused Battersea Power Station, amongst others.
In the meantime, a splurge of stadium redevelopments have taken place. Anfield’s expansions by 2023 will take its capacity to 61,000.
Real Madrid took a similar approach, with their capacity set to rise to 85,000. Atletico Madrid and Tottenham have opened new stadia.
All the while, very little has changed at two of England’s richest clubs. Both have been paralysed by logistical issues and ownership issues off the pitch. On the pitch, they face similar uncertainties.
Though Chelsea have been more successful than United in recent years, they too have question marks over the futures of several players. Promising news has emerged lately.
Last month, Manchester United announced the appointment of leading consultants to work on redevelopment plans for Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Todd Boehly, the American billionaire likely to take ownership of Chelsea, is thought to have sounded out property developers and architects.
These two giants of English football are playing catch up with their major rivals over infrastructure – but United and the Glazers now have the chance to put that right and finally give the fans what they deserve.