September 15th 2021
When one of football's biggest superstars returns to the club where they first made their name, it's worth a story right?
Whether you cheered or groaned at Manchester United's recent re-signing of Christiano Ronaldo, there's no doubt it was exciting news for English football fans.
And another chapter in Man Utd's long and colourful story.
So, what's this got to do with bricks?
Well, not a lot. Most of us aren't even Man Utd supporters!
We're claiming that slightly tenuous link because what we really want to talk about is brick's part in the history of Old Trafford, the world-famous home of the club.
And when we say brick, we're mainly talking about the old players tunnel in the South Stand, which is the last remaining part of the original stadium.
More on that below. First, a bit of history.
The construction on old Trafford was completed in 1909 with the inaugural game taking place in February 1910.
It was designed by Archibald Leitch, a bit of a football stadium legend. He designed a significant number of other famous stadiums or at least the early iterations of them.
Leitch's other projects included the Ibrox in Glasgow, his first and the stadium of his hometown heroes, Rangers. As well as this he designed the original structures of Stamford Bridge, Anfield, Goodison Park, Craven Cottage, White Hart Lane and many more famous grounds.
His designs were more functional than elegant and would ultimately be hugely modified over the years, particularly with the removal of standing terraces, but they still had a big impact on football history.
The cost of construction for Old Trafford was almost £90,000, a considerable amount at the time, which only reinforced the perception of Man Utd as a club with money.
The biggest changes to the original Old Trafford wouldn't come by design but catastrophe.\ Two German bombing raids, during World War Two, would change the course of the ground's history forever.
The first, in December 1940, damaged the ground to a significant extent but after repairs, football resumed on 8^th^ March 1941.
However, all of 3 days later, another raid would completely destroy the stadium, including the main South Stand.
To add further insult to injury Man Utd would then have to use the ground of local rivals Man City, Maine Road, for their home games. At great expense too.
Following partial reconstruction, Old Trafford would re-open in 1949, almost 10 years after a game had last been played there.
Redevelopments, rebuilding and other changes would take place over subsequent decades.
The main stand roof would be restored in '51, proper floodlighting added in '57, the Stretford End roof added in '59 and in 1965, the pillars holding up stands would be removed, and modern style cantilevering would be used instead to hold up the roofs.
After a gradual increase in capacity, much of the developments would start to decrease capacity as seats were removed to make way for changes.
Capacity would decrease even further following the Taylor Report which in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy would require the replacement of all standing terraces in the 1^st^ and 2^nd^ divisions with seating.
With the club's resurgence in success in the early 90's the 30 year old North Stand would be demolished and a bigger stand built in its place, significantly increasing capacity.
The current capacity stands at a little over 74,000, making the largest club football stadium in the country. This is less than its record attendance, but reductions have happened as a result of improving disabled access.
Any plans to further increase the capacity and become one of the largest stadiums in Europe, are unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever.
Logistically it would be a nightmare, as the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand which is currently single tier and could be increased, houses the changing rooms, press boxes and TV studios.
Any major expansion would leave the team homeless for as much as 2 seasons with the only comparable capacity grounds in reasonable distance being the Man City Etihad Stadium or possibly Anfield. Neither of which are viable options, for obvious reasons.
So, almost all of Leitch's original design is now gone, destroyed, modified, or rebuilt over the subsequent century and more.
One thing does remain, however. A little brick tunnel. It's the only bit to survive wartime bombing and subsequent rebuilding.
What used to be the players entrance, the tunnel is flanked on either side by the raised brick dugouts of each playing team.
It's not been used as a player's entrance since 1993, with the players now coming onto the pitch from the corner tunnel. It remains in the ground however and serves a very important purpose.
The tunnel under the south stand was renamed the Munich tunnel in February 2008 on the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster. There's now a permanent exhibition on the interior wall which commemorates Matt Busby's team which were tragically lost in the disaster.
As to what brick is used? This information is pretty hard to come by.
But we can't be certain that is actually what is used here. Nonetheless it's clearly a classic red brick.
And it's stood the test of time. Much like the club that surrounds it, brick has reliably delivered great performance since it's early days.
This brick tunnel will likely be around for a long time to come. Regardless of how much the world around it has changed, who's played in front of it and what teams have come to sit beside it, the brick has stayed the same.
And that's one of the reasons why we love it.