There will be no excuses this time around if Manchester United’s performances in the 2015 season begin to stutter, as they have pulled Old Trafford out of the running as a venue for that year’s Rugby World Cup.
Oval balls won’t be replacing footballs just yet on the hallowed turf, as the club have decided that hosting a rugby union match would be likely to damage the pitch.
World Cup organisers have now turned to Manchester City and are said to be in advanced talks about holding matches at the Etihad Stadium instead.
United famously blamed Rod Stewart for their failure to take the title in the 91/92 season, when they said a concert by the Maggie May singer a week before the season ended ruined the Old Trafford pitch.
The Reds only took a small number of points towards the end of the campaign, allowing Leeds United to take the honours.
Even though there won’t be the thousands stamping across the Theatre of Dreams to the likes of Da Ya Think I’m Sexy, it seems Old Trafford bosses have decided that 30 rugby union players could do just as much as damage.
England 2015 had hoped to hold up to three matches at Old Trafford and are now relying on the Blues to keep Manchester as a host city – despite the Etihad’s capacity being 28,000 smaller than Old Trafford’s 76,000.
As the tournament is taking place in September and October 2015, United are likely to be in the group stages of the Champions League at the time.
It’s fair to say they won’t want any more possible reasons to slip up after crashing out against Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid team this time around.
The club are still due to host rugby league’s Grand Final in 2015, though league is not as hard going on pitches as union.
United are installing a new ‘Desso’ pitch this summer which combines grass and artificial fibres like the turf at Wembley.
Old Trafford has played host to rugby union and rugby league matches in the past, as well as concerts from the likes of Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Simply Red.
An edition of Songs of Praise was recorded at the ground in 1994.
Picture courtesy of Nyaa Birdie’s Perch, with thanks.