The ‘Theater of Dreams’ too quiet for Manchester United supporters

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Apparently the “Theater of Dreams” has not been very dreamy of late.

Manchester United, eager to bring the club in line with the ebullient atmospheres of European clubs, has hired a “specialist” to help provide an extra boost at Old Trafford. The audio consultant, who was present at the stadium for United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool this past January, is planing to attend another match before the season is out.

The impetus for bringing in the specialist are the nearly 15,000 fans who pack Old Trafford’s famed Stretford End, who have become increasingly crestfallen with the lack of noise inside the nation’s largest stadium. “There were supporters in the Stretford End who thought they had made a lot of noise only for friends in different parts of the ground to say they couldn’t hear them,” a United source told the Manchester Evening News.

The club initially tried to tackle the problem by creating a ‘singing section’ in the newly-named Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. The section was planned to be similar to the ‘Red Action’ section at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. While many may laugh at the idea that United was taking atmosphere tips from group in a stadium renowned for its modern comfort and not it’s operatic noise, the Red Devils were nevertheless forced to scrap the plan due to safety and security fears.

Like most crowd issues in England, it all comes back to the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. Specifically, United feared that housing fans in the top tier could cause the stand to “flex” during active unifying celebrations like Manchester City’s ‘Poznan’ adaptation. United claim they continue to remain committed to moving away supporters from their current location but the task is proving difficult.

United supporters blame the hushed atmosphere at Old Trafford on the increase of corporate and tourist guests. There’s little doubt that this issue is affecting not only Old Trafford but every major sporting venue across the globe. Rising ticket prices and a slumped economy mean that only those with the deepest pockets can afford to attend a match. And those flush with cash much prefer to sit quietly in the stands with their peacoat buttoned high, legs crossed and silk scarf blowing in the wind. These gentlemen aren’t ripping off their shirts and belting out supporters chants.

But in England the problem is much deeper than snooty and potentially disinterested guests. The problem begins and ends with ridiculously tight security. Yellow Jackets flood the aisles, diffusing any potential for uproar between opposing fans even when it’s harmless banter. Merely standing up at a Premier League game puts you at risk of being removed. Heck, taking pictures with your camera phone can land you in trouble. Banners aren’t permitted to be flown freely and instead must be strategically placed against cement walls.

Fact is, the security at Premier League matches isn’t changing and the atmosphere at Old Trafford will never be like Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena or Red Star Belgrade’s Marakana Stadium. But advancements can be made. And more than anything it’s up to the supporters to band together, figure out the security loopholes and access them. Maybe it’s time United supporters looked to their brothers across the pond in places like Portland and Seattle, where some pretty notable “specialist” lay.

Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

Hong Hae-in/Yonhap via AP
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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.