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How the playing surface at Old Trafford is created

The Manchester United grounds team do a sterling job in keeping the playing surface at Old Trafford in tip-top condition throughout the year.

Technology plays a crucial role in providing the Red Devils with the perfect pitch in a city that is not exactly renowned for providing the best weather conditions.

With that in mind, we take a look at some of the elements that contribute to making United’s pitch one of the best in European football.

Line marking robots

The days when a groundsman marked the lines manually are a thing of the past, with football pitch line marking robots offering a more precise solution.

The Old Trafford playing surface is marked by a robot that can be set up in just five minutes and which delivers 100 percent accuracy every time.

The system is operated from a tablet and can be set to memorise pitch dimensions to automate the process even further.

Once they are set in motion, line marking robots can be left to do their job while the grounds team focus on other important tasks.

Garlic vs parasites

If you walk around the Old Trafford pitch in between games, you may notice your nostrils start twitching with the strong smell of garlic.

This is used to ward off the millions of potentially harmful parasites that could infest the pitch and leave it completely unfit for purpose.

The grounds team apply garlic to the pitch before having samples tested. When they know the eggs are about to hatch they apply liquid garlic.

The pungent aroma removes parasites and ensures the playing surface remains in A1 condition throughout the rigours of a busy season.

Self-draining design

The Old Trafford pitch is a Desso hybrid which comprises 20 million pieces of stitched-like nylon material, 20 centimetres deep, 1.5cm apart and 2cm from the surface.

Samples are taken every week to determine whether the pitch is low in nutrients or micro-nutrients and if any action needs to be taken.

Desso pitches are designed to withstand up to four inches of rain per hour, which is crucial in a city that sees more than its fair share of wet weather each year.

If the pitch is subjected to a heavy downpour, the design ensures that all of the water will have dispersed from the surface within 45 minutes.

Research-backed maintenance

Grounds maintenance in England is big business, with the sector employing thousands of people and estimated to be worth more than £1 billion.

Studies by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) in West Yorkshire inform how United’s grounds team operate in numerous areas of pitch maintenance.

This includes details on the correct type of grass to use in specific regions to the types of chemicals needed to keep the grass looking green.

STRI’s research activities are designed to provide resilient and sustainable solutions to pitch maintenance, thus protecting natural resources.

The final word

The Old Trafford playing surface has improved dramatically from what passed for the norm during the 20th century.

Mud heaps were once commonplace in English football, making it difficult for players to showcase their talents on a consistent basis.

Advancements in technology have allowed United’s grounds team to create and maintain a pitch that is the envy of most other top clubs.

Winning silverware may have proved difficult for the Red Devils in recent years, but no one can say the playing surface was to blame!

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