Following criticism over a lack of a boisterous atmosphere during games at Old Trafford ever since former club captain Roy Keane accused some fans of lacking interest in 2000, the hierarchy at the club have announced the creation of an ‘atmosphere section’ at the home ground. United have held trials over the past two seasons but confirmed on Tuesday that part of the ground will be a dedicated singing section next term.
The area will be located in the first tier of the Stretford End, while new accessible seating options for disabled fans are also being introduced. United confirmed the launch of the atmosphere section while announcing season ticket prices have been frozen for the eighth year in a row. “The support from our fans and the atmosphere they generate is incredible,” Richard Arnold, Manchester United group managing director, told the Telegraph. “So we’re delighted to be freezing season ticket prices once again in recognition of that.”
United have been under pressure to improve the voracity of the Old Trafford atmosphere ever since former captain Roy Keane criticised sections of the home support for “not having a clue” about what was happening on the pitch when United play at home. In an interview with the BBC in 2000 following a Champions League game against Dynamo Kyiv, Keane said: “Away from home our fans are fantastic, I’d call them the hardcore fans. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don’t realise what’s going on out on the pitch.”
Keane’s remarks helped coin the term ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ to describe fans that attend matches without contributing to the atmosphere. United have been in talks with supporter groups to introduce measures to improve the atmosphere inside Old Trafford on matchdays ever since Ed Woodward became the club’s chief executive in 2013. And Old Trafford isn’t the only top-flight ground to have come under attack for lacking noise. Arsenal’s former ground was famously dubbed ‘Highbury the library’ during the latter half of the 1990s, and fans of many other Premier League sides have bemoaned a subdued atmosphere ever since English grounds were remodeled to be all-seater on the recommendation of the Taylor Report in 1990.
Will this initiative by the Red Devils improve the atmosphere at the 75,000 seater stadium? Old Trafford is the football stadium with the second largest capacity after the country’s national stadium, Wembley, which is currently occupied by Tottenham Hotspur who are close to completing their new stadium which is expected to have a 62,000 seat capacity.