In February 1910, the club moved from their old ground at Bank Street to a new home at Old Trafford. Before 1902, Manchester United were known as Newton Heath, during which time they first played their football matches at North Road and then Bank Street in Clayton. However, both grounds were blighted by wretched conditions, the pitches ranging from gravel to marsh, while Bank Street suffered from clouds of fumes from its neighbouring factories. Therefore, following the club’s rescue from near-bankruptcy and renaming, the new chairman John Henry Davies decided in 1909 that the Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had recently won the First Division and FA Cup, so he donated funds for the construction of a new stadium. Not one to spend money frivolously, Davies scouted around Manchester for an appropriate site, before settling on a patch of land adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal, just off the north end of the Warwick Road in Old Trafford.
Designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, who designed several other stadia, the ground was originally designed with a capacity of 100,000 spectators and featured seating in the south stand under cover, while the remaining three stands were left as terraces and uncovered. Including the purchase of the land, the construction of the stadium was originally to have cost £60,000 all told. However, as costs began to rise, to reach the intended capacity would have cost an extra £30,000 over the original estimate and, at the suggestion of club secretary J. J. Bentley, the capacity was reduced to approximately 80,000. Nevertheless, at a time when transfer fees were still around the £1,000 mark, the cost of construction only served to reinforce the club’s “Moneybags United” epithet, with which they had been tarred since Davies had taken over as chairman.
In May 1908, Archibald Leitch wrote to the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) – who had a rail depot adjacent to the proposed site for the football ground – in an attempt to persuade them to subsidise construction of the grandstand alongside the railway line. The subsidy would have come to the sum of £10,000, to be paid back at the rate of £2,000 per annum for five years or half of the gate receipts for the grandstand each year until the loan was repaid. However, despite guarantees for the loan coming from the club itself and two local breweries, both chaired by club chairman John Henry Davies, the Cheshire Lines Committee turned the proposal down.
The CLC had planned to build a new station adjacent to the new stadium, with the promise of an anticipated £2,750 per annum in fares offsetting the £9,800 cost of building the station. The station – Trafford Park – was eventually built, but further down the line than originally planned. The CLC later constructed a modest station with one timber-built platform immediately adjacent to the stadium and this opened on 21 August 1935. It was initially named United Football Ground, but was renamed Old Trafford Football Ground in early 1936. It was served on match days only by a shuttle service of steam trains from Manchester Central railway station.
Construction was carried out by Messrs Brameld and Smith of Manchester and development was completed in late 1909. The stadium hosted its inaugural game on 19 February 1910, with United playing host to Liverpool. However, the home side were unable to provide their fans with a win to mark the occasion, as Liverpool won 4–3. A journalist at the game reported the stadium as “the most handsomest [sic], the most spacious and the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester and the home of a team who can do wonders when they are so disposed”.
The first game at Old Trafford took place on 19th February, 1910. A crowd of 45,000 saw Liverpool beat Manchester United 4-3. This attendance record was beaten a few weeks later when 50,000 saw United beat Bristol City 2-1. The following season, 65,000 watched a FA Cup tie against Aston Villa.
United finished in fifth place but were unable to successfully defend the FA Cup.
|Date||Opponents||H / A||ResultF – A||Scorers||Attendance|
|1 September 1909||Bradford City||H||1 – 0||Wall||12,000|
|4 September 1909||Bury||H||2 – 0||J. Turnbull (2)||12,000|
|6 September 1909||Notts County||H||2 – 1||J. Turnbull, Wall||6,000|
|11 September 1909||Tottenham Hotspur||A||2 – 2||J. Turnbull, Wall||40,000|
|18 September 1909||Preston North End||H||1 – 1||Roberts||13,000|
|25 September 1909||Notts County||A||2 – 3||S. Turnbull (2)||11,000|
|2 October 1909||Newcastle United||H||1 – 1||Wall||30,000|
|9 October 1909||Liverpool||A||2 – 3||S. Turnbull (2)||40,000|
|16 October 1909||Aston Villa||H||2 – 0||Halse, S. Turnbull||20,000|
|23 October 1909||Sheffield United||A||1 – 0||S. Turnbull||30,000|
|30 October 1909||Arsenal||H||1 – 0||Wall||20,000|
|6 November 1909||Bolton Wanderers||A||3 – 2||Homer (2), Halse||20,000|
|13 November 1909||Chelsea||H||2 – 0||S. Turnbull, Wall||10,000|
|20 November 1909||Blackburn Rovers||A||2 – 3||Homer (2)||40,000|
|27 November 1909||Nottingham Forest||H||2 – 6||Halse, Wall||12,000|
|4 December 1909||Sunderland||A||0 – 3||12,000|
|18 December 1909||Middlesbrough||A||2 – 1||Homer, S. Turnbull||10,000|
|25 December 1909||Sheffield Wednesday||H||0 – 3||25,000|
|27 December 1909||Sheffield Wednesday||A||1 – 4||Wall||37,000|
|1 January 1910||Bradford City||A||2 – 0||S. Turnbull, Wall||25,000|
|8 January 1910||Bury||A||1 – 1||Homer||10,000|
|22 January 1910||Tottenham Hotspur||H||5 – 0||Roberts (2), Connor,Hooper, Meredith||7,000|
|5 February 1910||Preston North End||A||0 – 1||4,000|
|12 February 1910||Newcastle United||A||4 – 3||S. Turnbull (2), Blott,Roberts||20,000|
|19 February 1910||Liverpool||H||3 – 4||Homer, S. Turnbull, Wall||45,000|
|26 February 1910||Aston Villa||A||1 – 7||Meredith||20,000|
|5 March 1910||Sheffield United||H||1 – 0||Picken||40,000|
|12 March 1910||Arsenal||A||0 – 0||4,000|
|19 March 1910||Bolton Wanderers||H||5 – 0||Halse, Meredith, Picken, J. Turnbull, Wall||20,000|
|25 March 1910||Bristol City||H||2 – 1||Picken, J. Turnbull||50,000|
|26 March 1910||Chelsea||A||1 – 1||J. Turnbull||25,000|
|28 March 1910||Bristol City||A||1 – 2||Meredith||18,000|
|2 April 1910||Blackburn Rovers||H||2 – 0||Halse (2)||20,000|
|6 April 1910||Everton||H||3 – 2||J. Turnbull (2), Meredith||5,500|
|9 April 1910||Nottingham Forest||A||0 – 2||7,000|
|16 April 1910||Sunderland||H||2 – 0||S. Turnbull, Wall||12,000|
|23 April 1910||Everton||A||3 – 3||Homer, S. Turnbull, Wall||10,000|
|30 April 1910||Middlesbrough||H||4 – 1||Picken (4)||10,000|
Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; GF = Goals for; GA = Goals against; Pts = Points
|Date||Round||Opponents||H / A||ResultF – A||Scorers||Attendance|
|15 January 1910||First Round||Burnley||A||0 – 2||16,628|