Saturday 16 February 2019

Manchester United change dressing-room layout to avoid another tunnel brawl with Manchester City

The new tunnel entrance at Old Trafford
The new tunnel entrance at Old Trafford

Sam Wallace

Manchester United have changed the layout of the home and away dressing rooms at Old Trafford to try to stop any repeat of the tunnel brawl that erupted in December between their players and rivals Manchester City.

The changes to the home dressing room, which was refurbished over the summer, has included a new entrance for the away team which takes them from the main tunnel directly into their changing room. Previously, both teams turned off the main tunnel into a narrower corridor in order to gain access to their dressing rooms, and it was in that corridor that December's row erupted.

Tottenham Hotspur players and staff were surprised at the much reduced size of the Old Trafford away dressing room when they arrived at the stadium for their Monday night game. The opposition dressing room was cut in size over the summer in order to create the new access for the away side which means that both teams do not go down the same smaller corridor.

In December, the City and United players clashed in that corridor which is hidden from the view of the television cameras in the main tunnel. The fight with City began when Jose Mourinho confronted Ederson in the away dressing room and had a bottle thrown at him, prompting United's players to come out of their room. They clashed with their City counterparts in that small corridor outside the away dressing room.

Previously, the away dressing room was entered via the second door on the right of the smaller corridor off the main tunnel. It was from that door that Cesc Fabregas famously launched a slice of pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson in the infamous 2004 “battle of the buffet”.

Over the summer, United have modernised their dressing room, giving them a new layout where the players sit around three sides of the room on individual seats with their locker space built in behind them. It is understood that the changes to the home dressing room have not impacted directly on the new away dressing room which is significantly smaller.

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Jamie Carragher looked round the new Old Trafford away dressing room ahead of the first game of the season against Leicester City and estimated on Sky Sports it was now "half the size" of the one which he recalled from his visits as a Liverpool player. At Spurs' new stadium there will be a generously-sized away dressing room as well as specialist bigger versions to accommodate the NFL teams which will play there every year.

There are many demands now made of stadium operators including a separate dressing room for players younger than 18 who are not permitted to change with adults under safeguarding regulations. When Angel Gomes played for the first team in May last year, coming on as a substitute against Crystal Palace at the age of 16, he had to change separately.

Within their changing area off the main tunnel at Old Trafford, United have also built a small kitchen where the chef can prepare post-match food, a new exercise chamber for players to warm up in and an administration office. All Premier League dressing rooms have to reach a minimum standard with the smallest away dressing room universally recognised as the one at Selhurst Park.

Telegraph.co.uk

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