Manchester United fans ask to relocate 'prawn sandwich brigade' in attempt to improve Old Trafford atmosphere
Manchester United have been urged to relocate executive supporters once dubbed the "prawn sandwich£ brigade as well as the family stand and disabled section at Old Trafford in a bid to improve the stadium’s troubled atmosphere, which has been criticised by Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho's most recent criticism of the noise levels at Old Trafford came in the wake of United's 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town this month, when the manager accused fans of being "quiet".
The Portuguese has made numerous remarks about the subdued atmosphere since taking charge at Old Trafford in May 2016 and his concerns are shared by the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), who have now laid out a series of proposals in an open letter to the club's group managing director, Richard Arnold.
While MUST want to see Old Trafford's 76,000 capacity expanded and safe standing introduced in the longer-term, they have encouraged the club to consider a set of interim measures that could improve the faltering atmosphere in the shorter-term.
These include moves to "reclaim" the Stretford End in the lower West Stand and the Scoreboard End in the lower East Stand behind both goals - historically the loudest sections of the ground – by seating the club's most vocal fans together in cheaper seats.
The Stretford End proposals would mean relocating part of the family stand as well as fans from the executive international suite, who form part of the corporate section of supporters once derided by former captain Roy Keane as "prawn sandwich" eaters who "don't realise what's going on out on the pitch".
MUST say that relocation of disabled supporters in the Scoreboard End could only happen once they have been offered "superior accommodation, custom designed to meet their requirements" but are keen to push for such a move. "Then the East Lower section should revert to cheap seats (and standing when this is allowed) for vocal fans to mirror the Stretford End," their open letter reads. "Recreating two popular ends would power the atmosphere throughout the whole stadium."
MUST believe changes to the seating arrangements at Old Trafford down the years, including relocating the original singing section introduced into the Stretford End at the turn of the millennium to the upper tier, have been compounded by higher ticket prices that have forced away younger adult fans.
The average age of season ticket holders is continuing to rise, and although a recent decision to reduce prices for young adults was welcomed, MUST has called for an extension of the concession age range to help the next generation of fans afford season tickets.
"A vibrant sustained youth support is essential to protect the club's long term support and improve atmosphere," MUST said. "Actions are needed to attract and retain the next generation of young fans."
MUST also argue that Old Trafford's facilities "have not kept pace with our competitors" and want the club to expand and improve concourses, expedite stadium access in the wake of increased security and introduce a faster bar service and cheaper drinks.
Arnold met recently with MUST and United, who are understood to share some of the concerns about the atmosphere, insist they are always open to a discussion on such matters. However, the club believe the prospect of relocating people from seats they have held for years is "fraught with problems". A programme is also already underway to relocate 2,600 season ticket holders as part of plans to increase the disabled section.