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The pubs of Old Trafford

Last month it was the pubs of Eastlands, now City fan Dave Bishop tours the pubs United fans visit on match-days with his mate Rod the Red.

Published on October 19th 2009.

The pubs of Old Trafford
“Look,” I said to Rod the Red, my drinking companion for the afternoon. “We’ve got five pubs to cover and I don’t want to spend more than 18 minutes in each. Which should give us 90 minutes in total.”

Yet, as we know, such time constraints are meaningless to anyone with a United bent, and 96 minutes later, with Rod the Red looking smugly at his watch, we were still on the crawl and a United victory was assured. Because I had to own up – the Old Trafford pubs beat City ones in terms of feeling comfortable.

As we sat down in this huge, cavernous old fashioned boozer the first thing we noticed was a reward poster for the villain who is wanted for questioning in connection with a murder close to the pub. Call me old fashioned, but that kind of décor accoutrement kind of makes me want to scarper. But fair’s fair, there’s nothing else threatening about this place – certainly not on a Wednesday lunchtime. Match days and Saturday nights may well be different.

Strangely there’s no Man United memorabilia on the walls, but there are pictures of a school football team from the sixties and Trafford Wharf Docks. Of course there are lots of tellies to watch footie on, but on our visit a John Wayne film is showing. It’s true then – this really is bandit country. No real ale, only keg Boddingtons and other nonsense, so we both stick to Diet Coke, while trying to digest the fact that all the mains on the menu cost just £3.50.

Do go: If you like plenty of space.
Don’t go: If you’re not into CSI.
Marks: 2/5 (for the value alone, although can’t vouch for the quality)

Although this is very close to the ground, it’s a lot posher than the Gorse Hill. So posh in fact, I’m tempted to order a prawn sandwich to experience what it’s like being a United fan. Rod the Red, isn’t a prawn sandwich bloke at all and seems amused by my excitement over the fact that you can get real ale. Not just any old real ale, mind, but Pride of Pendle, from the fabulous Moorhouse’s. Result, and I enjoy slurping half while admiring the tasteful stripped oak and slate décor, light, airy atmosphere, contemporary chandeliers and original art on the wall. There’s even an oil painting by Martin Murray, for God’s sake, while outside potted palms sway, all Ryan Giggs-like, in the breeze. Still too many TVs for my liking, but they’re there for a reason, and they don’t seem too overpowering. No sign – again – of any United memorabilia or acknowledgement that this is one of the closest pubs to the ground, except a sign saying Boyley’s Singing Section (in tribute to Peter Boyle, the United songmeister).The menu here is a notch up, with chicken nachos courtesy of Levi Roots and his saucy innovations, so it’s definitely a place I’d go back to.

Do go: If you like what amounts to a classy joint close to a footy ground.
Don’t go: If you only like rough.
Marks: 4/5 (comfortable away from match-days)

Woah! Did I say there was a lack of United stuff in the previous places? Well they make up for it in The Trafford, which does exactly what it says on the tin, with every spare inch of wall covered in United this and United that, making me feel quite ill. And the pub comes in just three colours - red, white and black – and it contains the first pool table I’ve ever seen with red baize. As it’s United from floor to rafters, the United faithful flock here like Rio and Co round a ref, so it takes a while to get served. Not that it’s worth the wait, with no real ale on offer, so I opt for half a Guinness. No food, either, although you’d think they’d throw raw red meat to the punters every once in a while, but intriguingly they do offer bed and breakfast for £25 a night. We hear Queen come on the PA and I start dreading that We Are The Champions is about to play, at which point I’d self-immolate. Thankfully it doesn’t and we sneak out.

Do go: If red rings your bell.
Don’t go: If you’re a Blue.
Marks: 3/5 (Simply because there’s no pretension and it’s a proper footie pub)

This is a bit further away, and as a result is 0.5% easier to get into on match days. Also, there’s the added bonus of being next to the canal, where we watched girl rowers from the university doing their thing and swans swanning along. Nice, but it was like a ghost town, with no passing trade except us, which is a shame, in a way, as it’s historic, including part of the original Manchester Ship Canal buildings, and is stuffed with artefacts relating to Sam Platt, one of the canal’s original directors. The windows are ornate and there’s a vaulted ceiling. Two crimes are committed here, though, which can’t be overlooked – there’s no real ale, so it’s Guinness again, and the music is all Euro-poppy. Outside stands a massive marquee, which indicates some increase in the clientele at the weekends.

Do go: If you like history.
Don’t go: If you don’t like an uphill walk to the match.
Marks: 2/5 (the poor choice of beer and lack of ambience lets it down badly)

Hey – a first for me. Although there is no real ale here, they do serve Pedigree, so I ordered that. “Sorry love, it’s off,” said the barmaid, “but we do have Banks’s Smooth” and before I could say noooo, she’d gone and poured me half. Pure swill - I could understand why a bloke in the corner was snoozing away – anything’s better than drinking beer like that. Overall an eerie experience in a place bedecked with posters advertising Soul Kandi nights, strictly for the over-25s only, so the mind boggles. And why is this the official pub of the Bray Manchester United Supporters Club? Bray, in Berkshire, is where Parkie and Brucie have made their homes.

Do go: If fancy a kip.
Don’t go: If you hate people from Bray.
Marks: 1/5 (not as sweet as Kandi)

Sad thing is that what our visits have shown is that outside match-days the world isn’t an easy place for traditional pubs especially if they don’t do anything to help themselves such as providing simple decent food and proper ale. In truth despite the tens of thousands of fans visiting Manchester every week to watch the football almost none of the pubs close to the ground are worthy of their custom – unless you just want a functional pint. Does this say something about licensees laziness or the nature of football fans?

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

scoteeeOctober 19th 2009.

I should think most pubs are pretty empty during the day time in any case.Perhaps the evening trade would be a better example ? Oh I don't know,it was just an observation. Rob, to follow a club is to say they are a favourite team.To support a team is to hear your voice in the ground having supported them financially with your purchased ticket.If there are an estimated 330 million followers of Manchester Utd all who sign up to web sites and registertheir interest surely this makes them followers as opposed to the much more dedicated supporter.If you bought the shirt and you live in Hong Kong you can't really be a supporter can you?

AnonymousOctober 19th 2009.

The White Lion in castlefield is a great pre-match pub, recently renovated it has English food during the day and a Chinese menu in the evening.

exileOctober 19th 2009.


scoteeeOctober 19th 2009.

just goes to show that the standard of these pubs really is based on match day footfall.where do the fans dissapear to in between games?This demostrates to me that most utd supporters are not local at all. tickets should be issued by post code, end of!

DigOctober 19th 2009.

(To the tune of Liverpools Torres chant) His hamstrings mean he has no pace, Owen Owen. he wants to play for Bacon Face, Owen Owen. He left the reds for sunny Spain, he hardly ever got a game, Michael Owen, he's injured yet again!

DanOctober 19th 2009.

Scotee. Typical bitter twisting an arguement to suit your pathetic facination with all things United. So every single fan now has to actually live next door to the ground which would be the case for the Bishops, the Trafford and the Gorse? I'm a ST holder, go home and away, have a Manchester post code but apparently i'm not a "real" red as i don't live right nex to the ground. I'm guessing you've got a house right in the centre of SportsCity then?.........

fred o'the redOctober 19th 2009.

i catch the 192 Ryanair bus from Dublin to watch the reds. good to see lots of Guinness at the pubs near the ground, not that i get chance to have a pint as i have to get the plane home at 7pm.

CasOctober 19th 2009.

Scoteee, I'm not meaning to get into an argument but do you seriously expect all the Trafford pubs to be full every day of the week. Do you expect people to travel from different parts of Manchester and only drink at those pubs because they support United? If you read the article on Blue pubs you'll see they are all empty throughout the week. You don't really go to match day pubs other than on matchdays. I go in the Bishop Blaize after games but wouldn't go there during the week, that's not too strange I don't think.

scoteeeOctober 19th 2009.

actually Dan I do live on Pollard street so about 10 minutes walk to sport city, but I am in-fact a Utd supporter.Not really sure what your point is?

EeyoreOctober 19th 2009.

I thought the Bray supporters club was where all the donkeys went. Is that the funniest thing on this website ever?

DigOctober 19th 2009.

Any of those pubs show the Liverpool match?

CasOctober 19th 2009.

I mean both. There are more match going United supporters in Manchester and Greater Manchester than any other club. Of course there are people that go matches at Old Trafford from all over the place, however it's quite a big stadium! People also take it as a given that all City supporters live in Manchester which they don't. Just commonly trotted out things that people then take as gospel.

baggioOctober 19th 2009.

Cas says..“ I mean both. There are more match going United supporters in Manchester and Greater Manchester than any other club. Of course there are people that go matches at Old Trafford from all over the place, however it's quite a big stadium! People also take it as a given that all City supporters live in Manchester which they don't. Just commonly trotted out things that people then take as gospel.”rather like "un!ted are the biggest club in the world." it works doesn't it!

johnPOctober 19th 2009.

The Bray supporters club in question at the Tollgate is the Bray just outside Dublin, you couldn't make it up , honest

scoteeeOctober 19th 2009.

Oh good glad we cleared that up,so why are all these local supporters not supporting their local pubs outside of match days?

scoteeeOctober 19th 2009.

I mean supporters that pay a fee and get to see a game, Do you mean follow or support Cas?

Gary FOctober 19th 2009.

Fred o'the Red, if you ever get the chance try the Guinness in The Trafford, it is the best pint i have had outside of Ireland (and that is something when you have to drink it out of a plastic pot)

east lancsOctober 19th 2009.

I'm with Cas. It's a fallacy that there's no Mancs in OT on matchday, pure and simple.

HongKongRedOctober 19th 2009.

Scottee, me supporter. Ronaldo is my favouwite prayer. Come on Red Devils we are the best. Riverpool fans do wee wee in their sock and dip in the bins.

CasOctober 19th 2009.

White Lion is a good footy pub but that Chinese food is quite possibly the worst I have ever tasted.

CasOctober 19th 2009.

Dig, remind me again what strikers Liverpool have to choose from tonight? And you turned Owen down on a free! You have lost 3 games lost in a row. Us, well we're top of the league, Owen scoring the winner in the derby, not all bad is it?

CatOctober 19th 2009.

Thank you for the review. Not being from around here it's always difficult to choose where to take people to watch the match. Somebody mentioned where to see the Liverpool games, i was wondering if you would know where i can see the Barça games garanteed?Thank you

AnonymousOctober 19th 2009.

Pathetic, you'd have thought the City supporters would have raised their game with banter, just like their team has raised it's game. Same old sniggering bitters with the usual wit free rubbish.

RobOctober 19th 2009.

Scoteee, i don't get what your saying? because the pubs directly outisde the ground don't do much business in the middle of the day (a none match day) this indicates utd fans being from outside Manchester. Also, please clarify difference between supporters and followers as you mention supporters in your 1st comment.

CasOctober 19th 2009.

Scoteee, there are plenty of red pubs in the suburbs. Do you expect everyone to drink around Old Trafford all the time? Your correct, most United supporters are not local, that would be impossible as there's millions. However more of Manchester and Greater Manchester support United than any other team.

COCKNEY BOYOctober 19th 2009.

cor blimey these pubs are ace me and my 12 pals get the train from Euston every match day and head up to see man u , Londons favourite team,! great pubs mate esp the bishops blaze , met some fellow man.u. fans from Bristol, Durham , Norfolk, the usa , Mexico, China , what a great place , pity they dont sell jellied eels and place chaz n Dave to cater for there main clientele !

real ale fanOctober 19th 2009.

Very sad to see no real ale in nearly all the pubs mentioned, when I goto games, I always drink in the village I live in first then travel to the match (10 miles.) The thought of drinking 'smooth' beer doesn't interest me at all.

B WoodApril 27th 2014.

Feel sorry for the staff that work The Tollgate pub Old Trafford - Landlord and Landlady very unfriendly very unhelpful n landlord very aggresive especially towards regulars - match day you expect prices to go up but nearly double them - not suprisef only time this pub is busy is match days all the regulars gone elsewhere

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