The official Manchester United Instagram account sent out a picture a little over a week ago that shocked a good portion of its 4.2 million followers. The picture, as you can see, features barren soil instead of grass in the Theatre of Dreams. The comments on this picture ranged from outrage to confusion, with a lot asking why they stripped the pitch that just won the joint Premier League Pitch of the Year with Arsenal. The answer can be found if we rewind back exactly one year in time.
Last year, and every year for about the past decade, the turf at Old Trafford was stripped off with the Koro Field Top Maker. Eliminated from the pitch was any thatch present, almost all the Poa annua plants and seeds, and any other surface contaminants.
This puts the head groundsman, Tony Sinclair, in almost complete control over his new pitch. At the time of our visit -- about ten days after seeding -- the pitch was well on its way to recovery, as you can see from the photos below.
The same treatment is done to the pitches at the Aon Training Complex in Carrington as well. Here, head groundsman Joe Pemberton deals with the challenges of maintaining a facility that is used by about a dozen teams (U-11s up to the Senior team). Luckily, Manager Louis van Gaal is very supportive and understanding of the challenges the grounds staff faces and keeps an open dialogue.
Joe Pemberton (middle), head groundsman at Carrington Training Complex
Joe has been with Manchester United since 1985, when the training facility consisted of just two pitches. Instead of the 11 groundsman and two gardeners that are working at today's complex, it was just two groundsman on site. With the club's growth came a new training ground, and many more youth teams.
First team pitches at Carrington being mowed.
With Tony and Joe leading the way for Manchester United's grounds, more industry awards and trophies are sure to be on the way. Let's hope the team brings in some trophies as well!
That's me in the tunnel below the stands, the only entry point onto the pitch at Old Trafford.