Two weeks ago on 2 December 2021, I managed to fulfil a long-forgotten dream of mine, which was to watch Manchester United play a home game in Old Trafford, the theatre of dreams.
I used to follow the EPL closely in my younger days but when I got older.. I kind of lost interest and only ‘came back’ during the major matches and during world/euro cup.
Unlike many other ardent fans who probably had to do extensive year-long planning in order to achieve this dream of theirs, for me it took a month, a lot of luck and it also involved making a lot of risky decisions. Well, before I go into the details of my experience, I guess many people would be more interested to find out how I manage to secure my tickets.
There are many ways you can get your tickets:
- via the Official Website: https://tickets.manutd.com/en-GB/categories/home-tickets
- from Individual resellers via Facebook Groups – Please do your own due diligence to weed out the scammers from genuine sellers. There are many genuine ‘season ticket’ holders that re-sell their tickets for matches that they are unable to attend (technically re-selling is not allowed, but it is hard to put a ‘ban’ to it). You may wish to note that there are some groups that only allow people to sell at face value. However, not sure how the payment and ticket exchange can be made as likely it would be an online transaction (e.g. Paypal, bank transfer?).
- Other online resellers websites – Just do a google. Not posting the names of any as I have not used any before. To buy tickets off such online platforms, be prepared to pay a premium of 30 to 100% more to cover ‘admin’ fees.
How did I get my ticket and how much did I pay?
I managed to get my ticket on a Wednesday (3pm, GMT/UK timing), 3 weeks before the actual game on 2 Dec.
When deciding on the dates to fly to manchester, I found an 8-day window where there would be three home game matches happening (2 Dec – Arsenal, 5 Dec – Crystal Palace, 8 Dec – Young Boys, Champions League). According to the stadium guide (when I was attending the stadium tour), such frequent home game occurrences were very rare and possibly happened as a result of COVID. Similarly, as I am writing this, Man Utd has postponed 2 games (and counting) as a result of COVID. We are living in unprecedented times and really, anything can happen anytime at all.
After a long consideration (on whether it was appropriate for me to be away from work, is it really ‘safe’ to travel and a lot of other reasons), I finally booked my flight tickets to Manchester which includes the 8-days window. However, after booking my air tickets, there were no tickets available on the official website. I did email in to ask if they still sell tickets on-site on match days (they did in the past) but they mention that due to covid, on-site sales no longer exist and the only way is via the website.
I spent the next few days ‘stalking’ the manchester united website, refreshing the page whenever I remember and guess what, my perseverance paid off because tickets for the Arsenal match did magically become available! The only issue was that.. the available tickets belonged to the corner ‘premium’ seats (See image below) which meant that my ticket cost me 175 pounds. In addition, I had to pay for the manchester united membership (price ranges from 20 to 68.5 pounds, depending on the choice of merchandise pack). I opted for the ‘standard pack’ (35 pounds) + additional 8.5 pounds for international delivery. I did receive my membership pack one day before my flight to Manchester (took almost 3 weeks).
To be honest, I did hesitate for a while when I found out that I had to pay 218.5 pounds (for ticket, membership, postage) which is ~$410.78 SGD. My whole life (to date), I’ve not paid so much for any concerts/musical/plays my whole life and with this purchase, manchester united has just broken yet another record as the most expensive ‘entertainment’ I’ve paid in my life. However, I convinced myself that I might only visit Manchester once in my entire life and it was a now or never thing as the tickets would likely be snapped up instantly. (Most of the people I consulted for this decision encouraged me to do so as everyone else hasn’t travelled in 2 years..)
Anyway, the annoying thing about such ‘late release’ tickets is that it is pretty impossible to get seats in a row. My seat and everything else that was available was ‘single’ seats. Not an issue for me but if it is, do take this into consideration if you’re doing this last-minute kind of thing.
Where did I sit?
To be honest, apart from the name which says ‘EXEC’ and that my seats had extra cushioning and perhaps that ‘corner’ view has a good eye for action, I don’t understand why else I had to pay that much for my tickets. For me, I just wanted to attend a match and experience the breathtaking stadium atmosphere. Even a seat at the upper Level 4 stands would be enough for me but.. I didn’t have a choice. Man Utd vs Arsenal was a huge match and the first team players would usually play and.. okay I should just be happy.
If you would like to see the view from my seat, keep scrolling down to the part where I write about my experience.
How does the ticket look like?
In Dec 2021 when I attended, the tickets only came in digital QR codes. After paying for the ticket, the ticket (with QR code) was sent to my email almost instantly and I was able to save the ticket in my apple wallet. You would have to keep this digital ticket safe and it would only be allowed to be scanned once when you enter. Assuming your ticket is ‘fake’, you may be denied at the entrance gate.
Remember to book your accommodation
Whenever there is a popular match in town, all the hotel rooms would be fully booked and occupied! Please remember to secure your hotel rooms as soon as you get your air tickets settled as the prices just go all the way up when the date draws closer! A room that usually costs $200 may be priced at $600 if it is still not sold out yet!
Match Day Experience
If you prefer a visual approach, you can check out the highlights in my Instagram.
The kick-off was on a Thursday at 8:15pm and we planned our journey targeting to reach the stadium at 7pm. It was kind of too early compared to the majority (of possibly season pass holders) who couldn’t care anything for the warm-up sessions and introduction.
Transport from city centre to stadium
We took the tram from ‘Shudehill’ to ‘Old Trafford’ (Green/Purple Line) and I bought the Zone 1+2 day pass tickets (3.5 ponds). It is very crucial that you buy a 2-way ticket because there would be checks for your return journey as the officers are around to do crowd control. I’m pretty sure it happens every match day. If you don’t have the ‘return’ ticket home, you may not be allowed to enter the platform and be forced to buy the ticket somewhere else. If I’m not wrong, they do accept credit/debit card for payments as well but I’m not too sure about that.
The ride was approximately 30 mins and as expected, it was full of man utd fans. In case you’re thinking of driving/taking a bus/taking a taxi, do think twice as when we left, we saw the roads being congested like crazy and the cars were in gridlock. Also, parking has to be pre-booked in advance. The only advantage to driving is that you get to stay warm and dry in your car (given that it is winter now).
The walk from the ‘Old Trafford’ tram station to the ‘Old Trafford’ theatre of dreams is about 15 mins. However, with the huge crowds, the walk may take up to 25 mins depending on how the human congestion flows (my IGS has more videos of the crowd). Along the way, there would be many stores selling unofficial merchandise, alongside with food cart. You can grab a bite if you’re hungry. I’m pretty sure the food from roadside stalls are cheaper and likely to be more delicious than the ones they have inside the stadium.
Purchase exclusive matchday event booklet
If you’re keen to purchase the matchday event booklet, remember to keep a lookout for the mini ‘booths’ outside the stadium. The matchday booklet costs 3.5 pounds and if you purchase it together with the Annual Book 2022 (looks like this), it would be 10 pounds for the set.
South entrance photo point
If I didn’t recall wrongly, the temperature was between 2 to 6 degrees that night. From the photo above, you can see everyone dressed warmly. The weather in Manchester is super unpredictable and even though it wasn’t forecasted for rain (which was why I left my boots behind), it rained cats and dogs towards the end of the match and my shoes were pretty wet by the time we reached back the hotel. A tip for you: always be dressed for rainy weather.
Entrance of players at South-west gate and.. David Beckham!
While we were trying to walk to our entrance, we realised that the southwest corner was barricaded and everyone was standing by and waiting (some with cameras). Not sure what we were waiting for but two black buses came and they were greeted with boos and jeers. Well, it was the arsenal players that were alighting and walking into their training room. This happened about 6.50pm, approximately 1.5 hours before the kick-off timing. (This path was shown to us during the stadium tour and everything made sense.)
Well, you may think that out of respect and sportsmanship, we should be cheering on every single sports player but nope. In the EPL, you only can support the club you love and nothing more than that. You’re expected to jeer for the opponent or at the very least, remain silent. If arsenal scores (and you’re sitting on the man utd side), you jolly well remain calm in your seat or contribute to the exasperation/disbelief noises. That’s the reality of competitive sports and you just gotta be part of the crowd.
Alright, so after the arsenal players alighted, they still did not remove the barricade and we thought that man utd players were coming next but.. nope. It was Alex Ferguson, alongside David Beckham and his son, Romeo (who was a gunner). To be fair, I didn’t recognise David Beckham at all as he was all masked up but the crowds waiting by the barricade were cheering lots for him. I don’t think his presence at the games was expected but I guess everyone else just had super bionic eyes.
I’m not too sure what time the man utd players alight from the bus. If you want to get the closest view of them, I think you can standby at least 2 to 3 hours before kick-off?
#lifegoals achieved given that I was standing so close to superstar David Beckham?
Entering the gate
There are numerous entry points into the stadium. You just have to look for the correct number indicated on your ticket. Even though you may be sitting in the same zone, your gate may be different but you’ll all meet eventually.
At the start, I was very scared that there was an unspoken rule of not being able to bring bags as the people around me were all pretty much bag-less. Luckily, there was no such rule and my small backpack was able to clear security. *phew* On hindsight, it is indeed advisable to not bring your bags along with you as the seats are very tight. If someone needs to get out, almost everyone in the row needs to stand up to make way. As a result, I didn’t really take in much fluids as I didn’t want to pee halfway during the match.
Also, as it was an old stadium, there are no escalators. From my entrance gate, I had to climb up 5 floors worth of stairs (photo below) to the waiting area at ‘Level 4’. This waiting area consists of the toilets and the F&B sales.
Took a photo of the price menu in case you’re keen on the marked-up prices. One thing to note is that you’re not allowed to bring alcoholic drinks to your seats. Thus, many people choose to remain in this area and ‘socialise’ with their drinks until kick-off. There are two TV screens in this area as well should you choose to watch the delayed by seconds telecast, or perhaps watch the re-plays and video-assisted views.
FYI – I heard the hot chocolate ain’t nice at all. The only reason you might want to drink it is because it is a hot drink.
View from my seats
Took this photo an hour before kick-off. The stadium is pretty much only 5% occupied?
The warm-ups started about 40 to 45 mins to kick off. There’s no ‘introduction’ or whatsoever. Players just decide when they want to run into the fields for their warm-up. Man Utd players usually do their warm-ups at the Stretford End (right side of my photo), West stand – as this is the area where the most fervent supporters sit. (Read the history) Anyway, the conclusion is.. it is good to be near the Stretford stand if you have the chance =p
It was once measured that the roar of the crowd from the Stretford End was louder than a Jumbo jet taking off, which just proves how noisy the Stand is with all the fans cheering for Manchester United.
The photo below was taken 5 mins to kick-off. They were making the announcements and introducing all the players. See how the stadium suddenly gets filled up. More videos can be found in my Instagram stories.
Okay apparently I didn’t take any more photos once the match started but I have a couple of videos in my IG post, including the penalty kick by CR7.
View this post on Instagram
The way home
The match ended at about 10:15pm and towards the last 15 to 20 mins of the game, it started pouring. With that pouring rain, we had to make our way to the tram station which was sardined-pack even before we reached! The crowd was just slowly inching in whenever the tram comes. The frequency of the tram was pretty bad at about 7 to 15 mins intervals. The public transport system is unlike those we have in Singapore – which will be extended on peak days to ensure that everyone can get home safely. With brisk walking and occasional shuffling and weaving through the crowd, we were able to board the train by 11:17pm. However, as it was late, the tram that we took did not bring us to our stop (unlike the one which brought us here) and we had to do an additional transfer – all these done in the freezing cold and wet shoes. The only ‘saving grace’ for me was that I was wearing my ski pants that evening as it was the thickest pants I had to ‘battle’ against the cold. By the time we reached the hotel, it was 11:51pm; and that was the latest I ever stayed out my entire two week holiday =p
It was an electrifying experience to be part of the red devils and see them winning a 3-2 victory over rivals Arsenal. One thing that I am not too sure about is that the stadium does not have big screens to show the replays which means if you miss the action, you miss it. Unless you have a powerful internet connection (no idea what subscriber the guy beside me uses), you’ll be stuck in the unknown until you get reception on your phone. (I was using giffgaff, a lousy network provider, which gave me no access to the internet until I left the stadium and was nearing the tram station on my way home.) The guy beside me streamed the match on his phone and watched the replay and explained to his girlfriend why the referee made certain decisions (and of course I conveniently eavesdrop). The first goal by arsenal was highly controversial but I guess the penalty that happened towards the end saved the game (though I haven’t reviewed the scene if it was deserving of a penalty). Watching the game live with one single view doesn’t provide you with much knowledge of the game, especially on the tackles and fouls.
Another thing I regret not ‘researching’ prior to my visit was to memorise the fan chants. I couldn’t keep up with the numerous chants and cheers but I’ll do better the next time (if it happens).
Hope you found this post useful and I hope you get to make it to the Theatre of Dreams one day too! Share your experience with me below if you do =)