To mark the launch of Chevrolet’s ‘What do you #PlayFor?’ campaign, Goal took a visit to Old Trafford’s famous collection of tributes and memorabilia
The museum at Old Trafford provides a superb snapshot of the sometimes tragic and often successful history of Manchester United.
Whether exhibitions dedicated to David Beckham or Sir Bobby Charlton, the extensive collection of trophies from all over the world and all manner of competitions, the heartbreaking Munich memorial, the audience with Sir Alex Ferguson’s hologram or the thousands of genuine shirts, footballs, medals, scarves, flags and countless other sentimental items donated by fans and players alike, you cannot help but be swept away into a world of nostalgia and emotion.
|WHAT DO YOU #PLAYFOR?
|For more information on Chevrolet’s ‘What do you #PlayFor?’ campaign, visit ChevroletFC.com.|
It is an audiovisual treat for fans of any club, but especially those of Manchester United. The blend of emotions is really quite something. Standing in the room commemorating the Munich air disaster, listening to the heart-wrenching news reports from that fateful February day in 1958, and reading the touching words from those involved on the walls, all of a sudden, from the adjoining room, you hear commentary from United’s finest hours, those big nights etched on the memories of Reds across the world.
Tragedy and glory hand in hand, it is Manchester United encapsulated.
The man responsible for this unique blend is curator Mark Wylie, who in 22 years working at Old Trafford has really developed a keen sense of just how he can inspire and unite football fans from all corners of the globe with his exhibits.
“In the Munich area people can be quite contemplative. When they think back sometimes it gets a bit much“
“You’ll often find that there is something that is quite evocative, it doesn’t have to be a shirt or a pair of boots or a football, it can be something a bit odd,” he told Goal.
“With the Munich room, for instance, often more poignant and emotional items are things like letters or a telegram, things that really catch you, rather than a 1957 FA Cup final shirt. It’s normally something out of the ordinary which people don’t think about.”
And he has an inspirational example: “A lot of people won’t realise that this place was bombed during the second World War, but we’ve got a letter from a fan offering to make the kit. They said if the club could get hold of some cloth, they would make the kit. I thought that’s amazing. That’s a fan saying they would do that. Things like that give you something extra, they give you a completely different angle.”
Mark has been helped not only by his curatorial team at Old Trafford but also by those legends at the very heart of the exhibitions. Today you will see tributes to David Beckham and Sir Bobby Charlton, and both men have been more than accommodating in donating a wealth of items.
“As Sir Bobby is a club ambassador we’re very fortunate. He’s had items on loan to us for a long time. We acquired a few extra ones and we used others to just broaden the story a little bit, but he’s always been very good to the museum, Sir Bobby.
“He’s from Northumberland but he’s pretty much Manchester United born and bred now. He’s the man most people would associate with Manchester United. He played pretty much his entire career here, was a director, he’s an absolute gentleman.
“When it came to the David Beckham one we spoke to his people and they sorted out letting us borrow the items to go on display, it’s really good. David has kept virtually his entire collection. Him and his dad, they were collecting, it’s almost like they were thinking there’s going to be a Beckham museum in the future, seriously, his collection is just astonishing.
“Not just in relation to what he’s won but the players he’s played against, he’s got a fantastic shirt collection. If we had really gone for it big time and asked him to show us everything we wouldn’t have known what to choose. We were quite specific with what we thought we wanted and everything we asked for he came up with, which says a lot about him.”
|It’s almost like they were thinking there’s going to be a Beckham museum in the future
– Mark Wylie
But perhaps the biggest part of Mark’s day-to-day role is not searching through the vast reserves of memorabilia – 30,000 items filed away for any given exhibit – but digging deep into the fans’ family tree to find relatives who might have played for Manchester United.
“We have lots of enquiries from members of the public who are wanting information about a specific match, or, and this is the most common one, a specific player who they think was in their family. They think that their great uncle Herbert played for United in 1910 or something like that, so we try to research that and find out for them.
“That has been the case all along. We’ve had that since I’ve been here but it’s become more and more prevalent in recent years because more people are interested in their own family history now, there are TV programmes about it, trying to find information.
“We don’t always have the information, because this place was bombed so some of our records went up in flames, but often we can find them even if it’s not so easy.”
The long history of Manchester United is clearly in safe hands.