"Old Trafford: My First Time" is a signature series featuring supporters across the United States sharing their experiences as they make the pilgrimage to Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams. Jackie Servino kicks off the first installment in her own words.
A year after my dad died, I decided to use the money he left me to do something fun and memorable. Traveling was the obvious answer, so I decided to go on a European holiday. It was the first time I’d ever really left the United States and I knew I wanted to do it alone. I was living in Washington, DC at the time and working with the Human Rights Campaign on the Gala events team. As a planner, I spent the next year researching cities and specific places I wanted to see.
The best part about traveling alone is that I got to choose what I did and when I did it. Manchester was the fourth stop on my trip. It was the summer of 2013, United had just won the league for the twentieth time and Sir Alex was officially retiring. There were no matches while I was there, but I could not pass up a visit to the Theatre of Dreams.
The hostel I stayed at was close to the train station and Metrolink. It was a short ride on the tram to get to Old Trafford, so I sat back and gazed out of the window the entire time. I was beyond excited to get to my destination and began imagining myself as a Mancunian. The longer I had spent in Manchester the more I was falling in love with the city. It was a beautiful, sunny day, uncommon for the season, so I took it as a good omen that this wouldn’t be my last trip there.
When I finally got off the tram, I knew it was a straight shot to the stadium. I could not walk fast enough. Seeing the top of Old Trafford, I picked up the pace and focused on my approach and thumping heart beat. From the moment I confirmed my travel plans to Manchester, I started to mentally prepare myself for this moment. I did not want to be an obnoxious American tourist, so I contained my emotions as much as I could.
Standing in front of Old Trafford, I almost lost my cool. I had the biggest grin on my face. Wide eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses. As much as I tried not to be a tourist, it was clear that I was not a local. I was looking at ever little thing I could. I wanted to remember every detail of this space and moment. Feeling overwhelmed, I had to sit down and take a few breaths. When I looked over I saw the United Trinity statue, I had to take a few more breaths. Once calm, I bought my tour ticket. Because I did not purchase it beforehand, I had two hours to myself and spent most of it in the museum.
I was a fairly new United fan having only recently gotten into the sport because of the 2012 World Cup. The Manchester United Museum was this portal of my club’s entire existence. I learned and saw so much. I took a picture of the Premier League Trophy (which I would see back in Los Angeles about 6 months later), fan memorabilia, and fun facts that I wanted to remember and document (my favorites are about the Busby Babes and the Munich Air Disaster).
Soon enough it was time for the stadium tour. The first stop was to the stands. I was sitting in Old Trafford. On TV the stadium looks big, but nothing compares to physically being there. It was huge. I suddenly felt so small and started to think about how amazing this club was to have enough fans to fill it up every game. I looked down at the pitch. It was so green and perfect. I would have given anything in that moment to touch it.
We made our way around, passing the memorial clock with the time in Munich and the plaque on the wall for the unfortunate Munich Air Disaster. The moment of silence was touching.
Afterwards, we walked through what felt like a maze. I had no idea where we were going and I did not care because I was on cloud nine. Just when I thought I could no get any happier, I saw this sign.
Once inside, I immediately searched the hanging kits for Chicharito’s. Once I found it, I sat down and kept telling myself that he sits in this same exact spot. I’m sitting right where he sits. I was in his personal space. I looked like a fan girl and did not care.
We also went into another room where the tour guide explained how players go there to hang out and mingle. He told us that David Beckham and Victoria met in that same room. I almost lost it again.
Finally, we got to go right up to the pitch. We sat in the home side bench and walked through the original player’s tunnel. It was the oldest part of Old Trafford. I ran my fingers along the wall while I walked. I wanted the rich history to rub off on me. I wanted to take a piece of my glorious day home with me. I did not want to leave the tour, stadium, museum, or city.
I left Manchester loving not only my club more, but also the city itself. Manchester was my favorite city by far. Thinking about that trip today, I’m so happy and thankful to my dad for the opportunity to travel to a city brimming with history, life, and love for the sport.