There’s been a lot said and written about the Old Trafford atmosphere in recent days. And to be honest there’s an element of truth in Jose’s claims. At times, the atmosphere in parts of the stadium is frankly awful, Stretford End and singing section aside.
But it can be good. And it has been good. To remind us of the good times, we’re looking back at 10 of the best atmospheres at OT.
This is based on my own experience of going to games starting in the early 90s. Anything before that is out. Apologies.
United 1 Barcelona 0: Champions League Semi-final Second Leg 2008
Viva Ronaldo. This was Ronnie’s season and peak time for that fans’ favourite chant. Scarves were swung round heads, whole stands we’re bouncing and we were ready for another Champions League triumph. A first-half screamer from Scholes just served to crank it up another notch.
United 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1: Premier League 1993
This one started as a nail-biter and a huge step in United’s quest to end their 26-year league title drought. The crowd was shushed by a John Sheridan second-half penalty to put the Owls one up, before the referee hauled himself off injured leading to a long stoppage and the birth of Fergie time. United piled on the pressure with corner after corner, before Steve Bruce popped up with a late equaliser with a quite outrageous header from the penalty spot. The Stretford End erupted and was sent into ecstasy deep into stoppage time when he appeared again for a Brucey bonus with another header from a cross from centre-back partner Garry Pallister. Fergie was on the pitch and Brian Kidd on his knees. Good times.
United 2 Liverpool 2: Premier League 1995
The first Liverpool game on our list. While it wasn’t the best result, it was all about the return of one man. King Eric was back after his ban to do it like he always did. He set Nicky Butt up early to open the scoring and hit a late equaliser to make it 2-2 from the penalty spot. The crowd was bouncing from start to finish.
United 3 Blackburn 1: Premier League 1993
Finally, they’d won the league again! With the title confirmed a few days before this final home game of the season it was time to put on a show. Flags were lifted high, Come on You Reds blared from the PA and it was all about the party. The fact that Pallister struck late on with a sweet free-kick and Robbo lifted the trophy was just the icing on the cake.
United 2 Liverpool 1: Premier League 2012
It’s always a good atmosphere when Liverpool come to town, but this one had extra spice being the first time Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez had faced each other since that infamous spat at Anfield. The crowd stoked the on-pitch controversies, hand shakes were refused and a pumped up Evra celebrated with delight in front of the Stretford End.
United 2 Spurs 1: Premier League 1999
It was before this one that Fergie uttered the famous words: “It’s Spurs”. The players may have felt confident but the fans were less so when Les Ferdinand struck to open the scoring in the first half. With nothing less than a win required to secure the first trophy of the treble, the fans urged the team on. Becks did what Becks does just before half time, before Andy Cole looped one in for the winner. The dream was well and truly on.
United 2 Middlesbrough 1: League Cup Semi-Final Second Leg 1992
When we talk about the sterile atmosphere at Old Trafford these days, it feels like the lack of passion in the stands is also mirrored on the pitch. We don’t see too much “proper” football in the Premier League anymore. But this one was all about that. Second division Boro visited OT in the second leg of the League Cup, having drawn 0-0 at Ayresome Park in the first. The rain fell, the pitch was terrible and 45,000 packed into the ground, including 10,000 Boro fans. They pegged us back after a Lee Sharpe strike and nearly won it themselves but for a sublime Peter Schmeichel save in extra time. Ryan Giggs popped up with the winner shortly afterwards in what was a pulsating old school cup game with an atmosphere to match.
United 4 Porto 0: Champions League Quarter-Final First Leg 1997
Old Trafford wakes up when the knock-out stages of the Champions League rolls around, and none more so than this face-off with the Portuguese champions. For this is when we truly started to believe we belonged on that stage and could go on and do something in the competition. And there’s nothing like a David May opener to really get the crowd pumped.
United 2 Liverpool 1: FA Cup Fourth Round 1999
“Who put the ball in the Scousers’ net?” Late comebacks became the norm in 1999 and this one was special. United were losing as the game went to the death. Dwight Yorke equalised with two minutes to go before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer popped up with a stoppage time winner. For the fans there was no better feeling than a late winner against the old enemy – or so they though until Ole did it again later in the season.
United 4 Real Madrid 3 : Champions League Quarter-Final Second Leg 2003
The crowd can’t help but be up for it when presented with one of the greatest matches in the Champions League ever. The on-pitch action was frenetic with a hat-trick of style, grace and panache from the original Ronaldo (he was applauded off by the entire ground), and two late goals from United substitute and Madrid-bound David Beckham. Despite winning the match, United went out 6-5 on aggregate, but it’s still one that’s talked about at Old Trafford.
What are your favourite United memories? What’s the best atmosphere you’ve ever experienced at Old Trafford?