It’s been the subject of criticism by Jose Mourinho all season. And the rest of the Premier League knows it too.
I go to every home game, and we place bets on how long it will take the away fans to start singing “this is a library”. It usually follows straight after a raucous round of “we support our local team”. It’s usually around the 17th minute.
The atmosphere inside Old Trafford just isn’t good enough. You can still get chills when it’s rocking for the big games, but when it’s Stoke or West Brom there’s too much lethargy in the home fans to create anything close to an intimidating scene.
It’s not just Old Trafford. The same can be seen at big grounds up and down the country. City, Arsenal, even Liverpool all face the same issues.
It’s just that United are reportedly looking at doing something about it, seeking the opinions of supporters through a survey. Here are a few of our suggestions.
Introduce safe standing
If done correctly this could be a no-brainer. We’ve all seen the pictures of Dortmund’s famous yellow wall. That atmosphere is generated by safe standing and the trust the club places in the fans. They’re effectively saying, “we want you jump, bounce around, wave flags, and get behind the team”. Too often at United they’re saying, “we want you to spend”.
Trust is the first thing. Second comes the accessibility. Safe standing in Germany means cheaper tickets, which means more younger local fans in the stadium. They’re the ones who make the noise – they should be encouraged back inside Premier League football grounds.
Guarantee a percentage of tickets to local fans
If safe standing was introduced, it would increase the capacity. With this increased capacity comes the opportunity to guarantee tickets for local people. At the last two World Cups – hosted in countries with huge gaps between rich and the poor – the cheapest tickets were very cheap but only available to local people. Why not do this and insist on an 0161 postcode to be able to get a spot in a specific area of the ground?
Engage more with supporters as a club
Is a survey the best way to engage with fans? Or is just paying lip service to a problem we all know exists? Surely the club would be better off engaging with supporters’ groups in a way that promotes collaboration and working together to solve the issue? Even Jose can come. Then we wouldn’t have suggestions like handing out song sheets flying around in the press.
Close the divide
This isn’t just a problem for United, it’s the same for all Premier League clubs. Currently there’s a huge divide between the players and the fans. The players are always commenting on the away support on social media and saying how appreciative they are. Some like Michael Carrick even appear in the away end from time to time. But this isn’t enough. The club and the players are too distant. Start by holding open training sessions, inviting supporters to awards evenings (without charging the earth for tickets), and create a platform for fan engagement. The scenes at the open training session at Galatasaray recently should be what we’re aiming for. We may never get close, but let’s at least try.
Play some decent footy
Right back at you Jose. It’s much easier to get a round of United Calypso going when the team is playing “football taught by Matt Busby” not football taught by Jose Mourinho and his defensive blueprint. No one wants to cheer a few sideways passes and two defensive midfielders in a home game we need to win.
If United adopt some of these strategies, they could once again be viewed as Premier League pioneers and lead the way for other clubs to follow.
If not, the sterile atmosphere will continue.