The Main Stand, now known as the South Stand, was initially Old Trafford’s only covered stand. When the ground opened in 1910, there was open terracing on three sides and the Main Stand on the fourth (sited between the pitch and the Cheshire Line railway). This provided under-cover seating for 13,000 supporters along with accommodation beneath for dressing rooms, baths, a gym, a boardroom and the Secretary’s office. The facilities at the new Old Trafford were as good as any.
The original investment was considerable. Loans taken out took years to repay, meaning there was little money left for subsequent stadium development. Not until the 1930s was further work done. In 1938 the Main Stand was extended to take in the two adjacent corners, creating the Stretford Paddock to the west and the Old Trafford (or Scoreboard) Paddock to the east. Refurbishments were also made to the facilities beneath.
The location of Old Trafford - near to the industry at Trafford Park - meant it was in a vulnerable position when war broke out. Firstly, on 22 December 1940, Old Trafford suffered minor damage following a bombing raid. Then, on 11 March 1941, the ground was virtually destroyed. The Main Stand was gutted and the pitch damaged. The Paddock roofs remained, but there was nothing left between. It took ten years to re-build the Main Stand. It remained derelict until the war ended and, thereafter, funds for re-building were only slowly released. By 1949, new terracing had been constructed and seats added, but there was still no roof. It wasn’t until 1951 that the re-built Main Stand was complete. As well as the usual facilities it now also included a medical room, refreshment room, recreation room and ladies retiring room. A new main entrance was added in 1955 (while other internal improvements were being made) and, in 1960, above this new entrance, the Munich Memorial Plaque was unveiled bearing the names of those who had died in 1958.
It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the Main Stand saw further significant improvements. The 1951 roof was replaced by one of cantilever design, similar to that covering two other sides of the ground. At the back of the stand a new Executive Suite was created, containing expensive restaurants, function rooms and executive boxes. (The Executive Suite meant the Munich Memorial Plaque had to be re-sited - necessitating the making of a new one when it was discovered the old one couldn’t be moved intact.) The 1970s also addressed various safety and control issues. In 1976, pitch-side fencing was extended to include the front of the Main Stand and, by the end of the 1970s, the Main Stand contained new police and fire control centres.
In 1985 the south-east quadrant was re-built, compete with cantilever roof. The new section provided seating for away supporters and room beneath for a club museum. In 1986, the floodlight pylons were replaced by roof-mounted lights, with the roof of the Main Stand being one of the roofs used. In 1991 the standing area at the front of the Main Stand was replaced by seating and, in 1993, the whole stand was upgraded with new seats and realigned gangways. Also in the early 1990s parts of the Main Stand roof were removed and replaced by translucent material. It was hoped this would improve the pitch by letting more light shine onto the grass. In 2008, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air disaster, a permanent display was unveiled commemorating the disaster. This was sited in the tunnel beneath the Main Stand, which was renamed the Munich Tunnel.
During the re-development of the stadium in the 1990s, the Main Stand became the South Stand. Though it occupies all the land between pitch and railway land, this still isn’t sufficient to allow it to rise as high as the stands on the ground’s other three sides. But in many ways it is still the ‘main’ stand. Housing the television gantry it provides the most familiar view, it contains the dressing rooms, the dug-outs, the directors’ box and the most expensive seats. And in the middle of it, the South Stand still has the old players’ tunnel, no longer used, but the only part of the original Old Trafford still standing.