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Will Manchester United invest in pushing Old Trafford capacity to 88,000?

Boasting an impressive 74,994 capacity, Old Trafford remains the largest club stadium in England by some considerable margin, only surpassed by the capacity of Wembley Stadium at 90,000 seats as a football venue, after the famous old arena was replaced by a luxurious new construction which opened in 2007. However, following massive expansions at the home of Manchester United since 1996, further upgrades to accommodate the constant demand amongst the legions of Red Devils fans, appear to have stalled.

Although their noisy neighbours Manchester City are romping the 2017/18 Premier League title race, United are still considered 1/5 certainties at Williamhill for a top-four finish. Whether or not manager Jose Mourinho and his side can finish this season with silverware in the trophy cabinet, Old Trafford will continue to enjoy capacity crowds for practically every match. Testament to the loyalty of fans who stick with their team through thick and thin, and would potentially do so with even greater numbers if the stadium capacity allowed.

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Blessed with plenty of space when expanding upwards and outwards to the north, east, and west, plus in the north-east and north-west corner quadrants, the sticking point was always going to be the southern aspect of the stadium. The South Stand, which was renamed as the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand in 2016, presents a number of logistical difficulties which must be overcome if the capacity at Old Trafford is to increase any further. Not least because of the railway line passing directly behind and additionally, residential housing beyond that.

During the process of the previous expansions and particularly since the American Glazer family takeover in 2005, the club has acquired even more of the surrounding land for parking and other facilities, which reportedly also includes the huge rail Freight Terminal to the west of the stadium, according to the Manchester Evening News. Indeed, the local media outlet has speculated that this could provide Manchester United with an alternative option of building an entirely new stadium, within the current vicinity of Old Trafford.

Whilst the most ardent United supporters would prefer the club to stay put and expand the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, plus the adjoining south-east and south-west corner quadrants, reports in October 2017 suggested that costs for the proposed increase of around 12,000 seats, have spiralled to beyond £750 million amidst even the most conservative estimates, and could end up in excess of £1 billion. Clearly, this would indicate the club are not going to rush towards any final decisions.

Given the redevelopment of White Hart Lane by Tottenham Hotspur is costing around £800 million for a completely new 61,000 capacity stadium, and the new Stamford Bridge site for Chelsea has an estimated £1 billion price-tag for its 60,000 capacity, it begs the question as to whether Manchester United will decide to stick or twist with their own expansion plans. A completely new stadium would inevitably cost much more than either of the two aforementioned venues, and would be upwards of 25,000 higher in capacity than either, which suggests that staying put would make the most sense economically.

Nevertheless, when talking about such huge sums of money, and despite being a given that United fans would fill the expanded capacity, it could be several years before the club ultimately decides which option to work with.

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