Opinion: Can safe standing areas improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford?

Old Trafford

During this season of transition, one thing has stood out to me above all else. Despite the constant negativity surrounding the club over our style of play, and of our inability to break down lesser teams, one thing to me has stood out. And that is the fantastic job our away fans have been doing in creating a raucous atmosphere at away grounds. Every time I tune into a game where United are the away team, I always hear resounding chants of “United! United! United!” Or “Louis van Gaal’s red and white army!” Often it drowns out the noise from home fans and this allows the team to push on with confidence, no matter how the game is turning out.

This was never more evident than on Monday at Deepdale against Preston. United toiled in attack against a stubborn Preston defence. It was a frustrating first half for the reds, but never at any point did the support from the away fans wane. Even after we went a goal down, chants of “United! United! United!” could be heard from the Bill Shankly Kop at Deepdale.

Undoubtedly this incredible support propelled United to victory, and the away fans even drew praise from one of our goal scorers on the night, Ander Herrera. Herrera proclaimed that “The support is always fantastic and it means a lot to us”, and added, “Today here in Preston’s stadium they were fantastic. They supported us at a tough moment and we are grateful for that. We won for them because after the first goal they pushed us for the victory.”  During the night, our away fans even had time to debut a new chant, in honour of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and that famous night in Barcelona in May 1999.

This brings me to my next point. As amazing as our away fans have been this year, I don’t feel our home support quite matches up. I’m not saying our home support is poor, far from it. However during games at Old Trafford this season I have noticed that there are often long periods of silence. Periods of time which at an away venue, would be filled with chanting from the away end. Now I’m not going on a rant like Roy Keane did with his infamous “Prawn Sandwich Brigade” jibe, I just feel that the crowd at Old Trafford could create a more raucous atmosphere for the team to play in. As Herrera said the team “Pushed us for the victory”, and I feel that a little more noise and atmosphere would go a long way, in terms of unnerving teams and giving our players a boost. If you need a reminder of how loud Old Trafford can get, then remind yourself of when Sir Alex roused the fans after Nani’s sending off against Real Madrid in the Champions League back in 2013.

One solution to this in my opinion would be safe standing areas around the ground, particularly in the Stretford End. We trialled something similar last year in our Champions’ League group stage fixture with Real Sociedad on the 23rd October 2013, when we trialled a Designated singing section. It was agreed that it was a success; however I feel that safe standing areas would eradicate the need for singing sections, as being allowed to stand often encourages fans to sing anyway. And if there are fans in the safe standing areas singing, then other fans around the ground will be more inclined to join in.

However as we all know, all stadiums in the Premier League and the Championship have to be all-seater. This as a result of the Taylor Report, which was drawn up after the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989 in which ninety-six Liverpool fans died. However, safe seating areas could be edging closer after a report shows that ninety-six percent of fans back safe standing, as well as some clubs including United. But if safe standing areas are to be introduced, and then it will most probably require a huge referendum and also a change in the law, which will most likely take a very long time.

So in the Long Term safe standing areas may be the solution. However in the short-term they are clearly not. However every United fan can do their bit by making some noise, getting behind the team and turning Old Trafford into the raucous fortress of old.

This article was written and researched by Mitchell Tennant. You can follow him on Twitter.

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