Andy Burnham has encouraged new Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe to be ‘ambitious’ and consider ‘unlocking the full potential’ of the area around Old Trafford as club bosses discuss the stadium’s future.
Currently, the new ownership at the Red Devils are considering plans to revitalise their home. Options on the table include redeveloping Old Trafford, as has been seen at Liverpool’s home of Anfield, or completely demolishing it to build a new stadium on the same site, which was the approach taken by Tottenham Hotspur for their new arena.
Mr Burnham, seeking a third term as Mayor of Greater Manchester in May, says that it is for the club to decide what it will do — but says he "will support whatever the club wants to do". However, speaking on BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday (February 8), he added that "the higher the level of ambition, the better" on the new stadium plans — believing the club can "fully unlock" the potential of the area around Old Trafford in a similar way to Manchester City’s move to the Etihad Stadium following the Commonwealth Games some 20 years ago.
“The club is considering its options, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe has come into the club. I think it’s no secret they are looking at what the options are vis-a-vis Old Trafford or something new close by,” Mr Burnham told host Joe McGrath.
“Those considerations are still going on, as far as I know. From my point of view, and Greater Manchester’s point of view, we will facilitate whatever the club decides. I have said to them that we will support whatever the club wants to do.
“If I am honest, the higher the level of ambition, the better. The power of both of our football clubs is immense, and City have unlocked their power in east Manchester. We see that with Co-op Live coming now, it’s impossible to imagine that area [as it was] in my youth now.
“The same thing can happen in the west of Greater Manchester, where the power of United is fully unlocked — then the two clubs lift the whole city-region up. It’s not my decision, all I am saying is that we are here to support you.”
While Mr Burnham would not be drawn on his favoured option for Old Trafford’s future, he was firm on one idea. It has been suggested in recent days that, should United need to leave Old Trafford to allow construction work to take place for a season, "the only place that could facilitate" the club is Wembley, Joe McGrath said.
“I wouldn’t support that, I don’t think so at all. I wouldn’t see that as the only option,” Mr Burnham said in reply. “There are loads of things we can do to support the club. It’s clearly going to go through a transitional phase — that much is clear — the question is what do they decide to do. There are things I can do to support whatever it is they want to achieve.
“I think this is the global capital of football, because in Europe we are only one of two cities where there are two Champions League winners. That, straight away, makes Manchester a level above the rest of the UK.
“I think there’s an opportunity here to set up Manchester as the global capital of football for the rest of the century and that’s why we are here to support the club in whatever it decides.”