Maine Road: A temporary home for Manchester United

During World War Two, Old Trafford was used as an army depot by the British military services. Manchester United still played home games at Old Trafford while this operation was in use. However, due to political rivalry, this made Old Trafford stadium a potential target for the Germans to bomb.

On the 22nd December 1940, the first of the German bombs hit Old Trafford. Although the damage was not crucial, it caused a Christmas Day fixture against Stockport County to be moved to Stockport’s ground.

Work was done to rebuild the theatre of dreams and the stadium was reopened on the 8th March 1941. Unfortunately, another German bombing raid took place on the 11th March 1941. This time the damage done to the stadium was disastrous. Old Trafford would go on to be closed until 1949.

Manchester United were forced to play their home games at Maine Road, the home of derby rivals Manchester City. Whilst the club was paying for Old Trafford to be built they were also paying Manchester City £5,000 a season along with a percentage of the gate receipts.

The now demolished Maine Road once lay firmly in the working-class suburbs of Moss Side, Manchester. It was built in 1922 but was closed in 2003 and then finally demolished in 2004. The stadium was seen as one of the major venues in the United Kingdom. At times, the capacity could have gone over 80,000. Maine Road hosted 18 FA Cup semi-finals, one League Cup final and four Charity Shield games.

As a result of World War Two, the majority of English football was suspended. During wartime, national leagues and cup competitions were suspended. This meant that Manchester United did not play regularly at Maine Road directly after Old Trafford was bombed in the Manchester Blitz. It wasn’t until the FA Cup resumed in 1945 and The Football League returned in 1946 that United played regularly at Maine Road.

Former Manchester City player Matt Busby took the managerial position at Manchester United in 1945, just as United resumed their FA Cup campaign. However, the only season the Mancunian giants were successful in winning silverware whilst at Maine Road was in the 1947/1948 season. United won the FA Cup that season beating Blackpool 4-2 at Wembley with Irishman Johnny Carey captaining the side.

During United’s tenure at Maine Road, the reds set a record that not many Manchester City fans would like to talk about. In a league game when United played against Arsenal during the 1947/1948, 83,260 attended Maine Road. To this day, this is the record for the most attended game in Football League history.

Old Trafford reopened its doors once more in time for the 1949/50 season. Over 40,000 people turned out to witness United’s first home league game at Old Trafford in nearly 10 years. On the 24th August 1949, Manchester United beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 in the reconstructed Stadium.

Years later United also used Maine Road as a home venue. In the 1956/57 season, Manchester United played three out of four of their home games in their European Cup campaign. Maine Road was chosen as United’s home venue as the games were being played at night. Unfortunately, at the time, Old Trafford did not have floodlights installed.

Written by Shane Purcell

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