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Wherever your allegiances lie, the expertise of Manchester’s famous football teams are just as evident off the pitch as on it
Manchester is still revelling in the afterglow of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which bolstered its sporting facilities and cemented its reputation as a standalone destination for international
events. Football is the city’s most famous export, thanks to the mighty Manchester United
(tel: 0161 868 8000, squaremeal.co.uk/man-u), one of the most successful clubs in the history of English football. Even those normally averse to the sport will find it hard to shake off the goosebumps at the sight of the world-famous, 76,000-capacity Old Trafford stadium, a colossus that also offers a catalogue of event spaces for up to 1,200.
Highlights include the sleek Evolution Suite, the only space with views out of and into the stadium, and the 1968 Suite, a bright room offering great sunsets for evening receptions. For the best views of the pitch, book the older Stretford and Trafford gallery rooms, which sit just above the dug-out. Requests for stadium lighting during evening events, stadium tours and museum visits can usually be accommodated.
On the blue side of town, things are looking up at the City of Manchester Stadium (tel: 0870 062 4141, squaremeal.co.uk/mancity). Bought by a wealthy Abu Dhabi-based enterprise in 2008, resident club Manchester City spent more than £100m on players in 2009. The stadium is smaller than Old Trafford, with capacity for about 47,000, but the cash injection has brought a rolling refurbishment programme that is keeping interiors in the 70 boxes and function spaces fresh.
The stand-out space is the Legends’ Lounge, a 250-capacity gallery room with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass overlooking the pitch. It’s higher up than the spaces at Old Trafford, so the feel is light and airy, with pictures of some of the club’s greatest-ever players adorning the walls. City might often be overshadowed by its rival, but the club now has the financial backing to make it serious contenders on and off the pitch. Watch this space.
No client would turn down a ticket to Old Trafford, especially towards the business end of the season. But top-end facilities come at a price. One of the slick, 16-seater Centennial Suites will
set you back £182,250 for the season – the cash equivalent of one of Wayne Rooney’s toes. Match-by-match options tend towards the less formal, with the lively Red Café and the museum making
colourful settings for entertaining for between £150 and £400 per person per match. Even the TV studio can be hired if it’s not in use.
It’s not just the quality on the pitch – even to the untrained eye – that is better than the average football match. During our visit to the Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich, the more homely touches back and front of house – a hearty monkfish and bean stew for dinner and the arrival of a magician as an early icebreaker before the game, for example – made a big impression. As you’d expect, it’s a first-class operation, but when Manchester United is on winning form, no one stops for pudding.
To book hospitality at Old Trafford, contact the bookings team on 0161 868 8000
This feature first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, summer 2010