The Definitive Guide to Your First Trip to Old Trafford

This guide is for those millions of Manchester United fans who are yet to make their pilgrimage. Having now made my 2nd trip to the Theatre of Dreams, I thought I would blog about the process of making a trip and watching a game, for it is a process.
When I was planning my first trip, I remember many questions popping up –
1. Where do I get tickets from?
2. How will the tickets reach me?
3. What are the best seats at Old Trafford? Where should I aim to sit?
– Where is the Stretford end? I only see West/East/North/South. Is it the best place to sit?
4. How do I get to Old Trafford from London? The instructions seem inadequate
5. How long should I allow before and after the game?
6. How much does the whole trip cost?
7. If there are no games in Old Trafford when I’m around, how does it work to catch an Away game in London, or elsewhere?
8. Anything else?
So, before you plan your holiday trip to London, I’d love for you to be do the needful so you can catch that game at Old Trafford. So, here are the answers (to the best of my knowledge)
1. Where do I get tickets from?
The tickets are understandably the first and most important hurdle. The following are the ways to get tickets –
a) Official membership – Straightforward: The steps are –
i) Sign up for the 30 Pound yearly membership
ii) You will get emails when tickets for games are ready for ‘ballot’ (more on balloting below) – typically a month before the games
iii) Or you can wait till a week after the games when individual tickets are up for sale. This is more last minute but you have control on which seats you are sitting (you will be able to pick from a miniature stadium)
I waited until the last minute for the Arsenal game this weekend – still got seats and got it at a location I liked.
Balloting: If you are going with a friend, balloting is necessary. It is the only way you can ensure you are sitting next to him/her. If you wait till the remaining tickets are up for sale, the chances that 2 seats next to each other are empty are minimal.
I am not the biggest fan of balloting because you can’t pick your seats. If you are attending a one-off game, I’d rather have that choice.
Another point to note here – it is fairly easy if you are traveling alone. Most games will have seats, including the big ones, as there are 70,000 odd seats available! If you are traveling with a group, then you’ll have to risk balloting. :) For instance, I balloted for the Chelsea game @ OT next month – and got the East Stand.. even though it wasn’t on my priority.
b) Viagogo: Viagogo is an official reseller of tickets for Manchester United and Chelsea. This means that Viagogo opens itself up to all season ticket/regular ticket holders who can’t make it for a particular game. Viagogo charges a 20 Pound fee (rather exorbitant since tickets typically cost only around 35-40) but it does give you choice – as you will have the remaining seats on display.
Do note that buying on Viagogo also requires you to have an official membership.
This is an option if the ‘Official membership’ option doesn’t give you what you want. I used Viagogo for my first game at Old Trafford
c) Other ‘not-so-legal’ Resellers: An example here is LiveFootballTickets – they are typically not legal since they do what Viagogo do, without the required permits. So, you don’t need any official membership – you can just buy off the website.
I have used LiveFootballTickets myself – for the United vs Chelsea Champions League Quarter final at Stamford Bridge last season – exorbitant prices but atleast you get to sample the experience. Big games will set you back around 200 GBP.
Sites such as eBay, Craigslist etc will also have tickets. This is the option to go to if all else fails.
And if all these fail, try going to the stadium and buying tickets in black. Expect to pay much much more though. I haven’t tried this.. :)
Having used all these options, I can attest to the simple fact that they work. :)
2. How will the tickets reach me?
They will be sent to the address you have registered with.
For the purposes of the game, I would suggest you change your address to that of a friend in London so there are no problems there. Changes can be done online or via the phone.
Man Utd have got exceptional customer service. And calling their ticketing hotline on
+44 (0) 161 868 8000 will give you all the help you need. If you are in queue, you can even leave your number and they will call you right back – yes, even if you’re calling from abroad. Impressive.
Similar for Viagogo and other vendors.
2. What are the best seats at Old Trafford? Where should I aim to sit?
– Where is the Stretford end? I only see West/East/North/South. Is it the best place to sit?
Okay, great question. ;)
Let’s go stand by stand –
1. South Stand: This is where the ‘Director’s Box’ is and where the players sit. So, if you’d like to have a closer look at the stars throughout the game, then this is where you want to be. And for the same, reasons, tickets here are more expensive. Typically about 50 Pounds.
And of course, you have a great view of the game.
2. West Stand: The West stand is the famous ‘Stretford End’. Now, the lower tier is the area behind the goalpost. This is great because you could be on TV and is obviously very close to the goal-keeper and defence.
The ‘atmosphere’, however, comes from West Tier 2. This is where all the songs and chants originate. If you are anywhere on West Tier 2, you can expect to be singing and of course, not sitting. The seats are useless.
The ‘FAM’ stands (in Dark Grey) are great for the atmosphere as well as the view. It’s brighter and closer to the action. That’s where I was for the Fulham game.
The ‘W’ stands, especially right at the top (row 35-40) is where the hardcore Stretford End-ers are. This is where all the chants originate and this is really where the ‘atmosphere’ is. And of course, you are right in front of the famous Stretford End banners.
I am biased to atmosphere but I have chosen to be here both times and boy, they make for incredible memories.
3. North Stand: Best views of the game, especially if you are bang in the middle. I would try and avoid the highest reaches of North East and North West.
So, if you are not in the mood to stand and scream but just want to enjoy a great game, then North Stand is a great option. I met many who would swear by it!
4. East Stand: The South East stand (in blue) is where the Away fans are. So, you can expect lots of banter on the East Stand. It is also behind the goal so there is typically some atmosphere. I’ll probably update this post Chelsea game. :)

3. How do I get to Old Trafford from London? The instructions seem inadequate.

I added the last part as I found them inadequate. :) If you have friends who are prepared to drive, then that’s definitely an option. Parking is not impossible to find but you will probably have to be prepared for a bit of a walk. I can’t be of much help with the highways etc. So, all the best!
Train is how I’ve traveled. You can check out options on the National Rail Website. Trains from London to North East are managed by Virgin. The trains run from London – Euston to Manchester – Piccadily. The booking process is straightforward and will set you back 50-70 Pounds depending on when you book your tickets. (1 month = 50 Pounds, 1 week = 70 Pounds)
Getting from Manchester Piccadily to Manchester United Football Ground
Cab is one option. Do this if you are late.
Tram is another. This can be fun as you will travel via the city (15-20 minutes) and you will also have a 5-10 minute walk to the stadium. Of course, traveling with an army of red if fun and the walk to the stadium means you also get a taste for the very ‘red’ atmosphere around. Don’t worry about getting lost.. everyone will be heading to Old Trafford.
Returning via tram can be a bit of a pain as the queue to get on the tram is massive and takes forever. On the bright side for the cricket fans, the queue forms in front of Old Trafford cricket ground.
Train – this is the simplest option. Drops you right at the stadium. 10 minute ride. A return ticket costs around 3.5 pounds – very simple, very straightforward. The last train is typically 30 minutes before the game and trains also run for 1 and a half hours or so after the game.
Few things to note when getting train tickets –
– Book for arrival atleast 1 hour before the game. Ideally, 1 hour 15 mins. This will give you enough time to get to the stadium, see the players warming up and also get a ‘feel’ for the pre-match atmosphere. You can also sneak in a trip to the Megastore. Expect that to take 20-30 minutes though as it is VERY crowded!
– Book for return atleast 1 and a half hours after the game. Again, just for safety. If you would also like to stand with the crowd for autographs when the players leave, then you want to budget atleast 2 hours. This happens near the car park.. you can catch all the players up close with their fancy cars and fancier wives/girl friends. :)
– I have been told you can also catch trains without reservation from Kings Cross (yes, Harry Potter’s.. :)) but if you are not a regular, I wouldn’t chance it.
– If you are traveling on a long weekend, watch out! We had a nightmare experience with trains being delayed, not allowing passengers in etc. This is hard to predict.. but if you’re traveling on a long weekend, get an earlier train and spend a few extra hours in Manchester.
Another option could be to stay overnight. If you go on a non-match day, then you can take a tour of the stadium, the changing rooms etc – I haven’t been able to go on a non-match day yet.
– Tickets are either sent to a UK address or can be redeemed at the station using the same credit card used for payment.
– On normal match days, the journey is pretty comfortable. It’s a scenic 2 hour 30 minute journey with lovely views of the English countryside. There are a few seats with tables in every coach and this means you can get work done as well.
4. How long should I allow before and after the game?
These are answered above. It really depends on you. 1 hour before and 1 and a half hours after is typically decent and gives you time to experience the nice things.
Whatever you do, don’t miss your train especially since it is likely to be late evening by the time you finish and it takes around 2 hours and 30 mins to get back to London.
5. How much does the whole trip cost?
This varies from around 90-140 Pounds. If you can book your train tickets early, you will save a lot of cash.
And of course, it is more than worth it!
6. If there are no games in Old Trafford when I’m around, how does it work to catch an Away game in London, or elsewhere?
Away games are harder to catch simply because there are only around 3000-5000 seats available and the away ‘faithful’ are just that – very faithful. But, you can give it a shot. You’ll have more luck trying to find tickets among the home fans though.
These guidelines work with other clubs as well. The process is similar – if you have a network of friends in London, asking around helps greatly in finding tickets for London games. There are quite a few stadiums here – Stamford Bridge (Fulham Broadway Tube Station – south), Arsenal (Arsenal Tube Station – North), Tottenham (White Hart Lane main line station – North), Fulham (Hammersmith Tube Station – South) – so you have a good shot at catching a football game.
And you may also have West Ham if they make it back up. :)
8. Anything else?
Few thoughts that come to mind –
– The whole experience is a lot of fun. If you are traveling from Euston, you will likely see many many United fans traveling with you. There are lots of smiles and excitement. And if you are traveling for a game with any of the London clubs, you are likely to meet many. I’ve not seen any crazy rivarly yet – it’s all been in good spirit so far – before the game atleast.
– Coming back is typically accompanied with a lot of crazy singing (alcohol is in the air) especially if United win.. so expect a part of sorts especially if it’s a big game and the train is over booked meaning there will be loads standing.
– If you get a ticket to the Stretford end, knowing some of the popular chants (U-N-I-T-E-D, Champione, Ryan Giggs, Scholes, Park Park wherever you may be etc) always helps. Just check them out on YouTube.
Even if you don’t know them, don’t worry. Just ask the person next to you. The regulars are generally VERY welcoming and sweet.
I still remember my 1st few minutes at Old Trafford. The players had just finished warming up – it was bright and sunny and ‘I got a feeling’ was playing. The moment is etched in my memory. I realized why the place is called the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ because that’s what it really is – a theatre.
I also remember all my feelings of sympathy for the players disappearing when they walked in to the stadium. I used to feel sympathetic because it seemed like they paid a very high price (tough media, flak from opposition fans) for earning the big bucks.. but when I saw the kind of reception they got, I was just envious that moment. Performing in front of 75,000 adoring fans week-in-week-out AND being paid astronomical sums of money – boy, that IS a good life.
It really is an unforgettable experience. I hope you will make the trip someday. And when you do, I hope this post helps you.
And if I have missed anything or if you have any other questions, do reach out, in the comments. And for fans of other clubs, parts of this post would apply to you too. Again, happy to help any way I can.
And one last thing..
The prime reason for writing this was because I know what it feels to be a fan outside Europe. Back in Singapore, following United meant mid-week matches at 345AM, weekend games post midnight. And hence, I guess I can relate to how much it means to actually watch a game at the stadium.. and feel that sense of belonging while egging the team along and celebrating a Rooney goal – that sense of belonging that comes from being a fan of Manchester United.