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United appoints Populous, Legends to oversee Old Trafford redevelopment

Manchester United has today (Thursday) appointed Legends International and Populous to lead a team that will be tasked with creating a masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford.

The Premier League club announced today that work will begin “immediately” on developing options for the stadium and studying their feasibility, with the aim of significantly enhancing the fan experience at the 74,000-capacity venue.

Later this month, a meeting between the team of consultants and United’s fans’ advisory board will be held to discuss the options in more detail. United has also appointed KSS to develop a masterplan for an expanded, state-of-the-art training facility for its men’s, women’s and academy teams.

United announced plans to upgrade Old Trafford at the end of last year, although so far no details on the scope or budget of the plans have been confirmed.

Old Trafford is the largest club stadium in England but United has fallen behind its rivals in recent years as Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham moved to new homes and Liverpool carried out extensive redevelopment work at Anfield.

It emerged last month that United is considering three options for the redevelopment of Old Trafford, including a complete rebuild of the stadium. According to The Telegraph, the rebuilt stadium would have a capacity to rival that of Wembley Stadium, which seats 90,000 fans.

Another option said to be under consideration is an expansion of Old Trafford’s South Stand, which is also known as the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand. In October, BBC Sport reported that United had opened discussions on a major redevelopment of the stadium that would centre on this stand and increase Old Trafford’s capacity to 80,000.

Previously, problems relating to the nearby railway line have been viewed as a potential obstacle to any work on the stand but improvements in construction materials could pave the way for the work to be carried out.

The third option said to be under consideration is a wider revamp of the 112-year-old stadium that would focus on redeveloping the spectator and corporate areas. United is said to favour a “phased rebuild” of the stadium, which would allow the club to continue playing at Old Trafford at full capacity without needing to partially close the South Stand.

A complete rebuild of Old Trafford would force United to play home matches at a temporary home, which could prove to be a stumbling block given the lack of suitable local options. A groundshare with local rival Manchester City would appear to be out of the question.

Global architecture firm Populous designed Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, which opened in 2019, while its other projects in England include Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Wembley. In December, Populous saw off competition from Manica/Sportium to land the contract to design a new stadium for Italian Serie A clubs AC Milan and Inter Milan.

Premium experiences company Legends International has a client base which includes Real Madrid, SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium. It is also working with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, alongside Populous, as the team moves forward with plans for a new $1.4bn stadium.

Image: Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash