sport news How Manchester United's talent factory The Cliff became a crumbling relic trends now
It was once the beating heart of Manchester United. The talent factory where Busby's Babes were moulded, the finishing school from which the Class of '92 graduated with honours.
Like Sir Matt decades earlier, Sir Alex Ferguson used it as a headquarters to mastermind one of English football's greatest eras. It was here where the plot to topple Liverpool from their perch was hatched.
Here where he would patrol his office, glaring out of his floor-to-ceiling window onto the training pitch – ready to chastise anyone not putting in the expected shift in an era well before data analysts and filmed sessions.
Here where he would sit behind the full-length desk that covered nearly all of his tiny nerve centre in front of the sign which read 'AHCUMFIGOVIN' which never let him forget his Glasgow dockyard roots.
And here where he would turn up every morning ahead of the rest at 7.30am, read the papers with breakfast and rollock the groundsman for not putting enough water on the pitch ('f*****g flood the thing!').
How Manchester United's iconic training ground, The Cliff, looks today following years of neglect and under-investment
The Cliff, where one of the main buildings is now covered in scaffolding, was the nerve centre where Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson plotted trophy campaigns
How the entrance to The Cliff, first used by United back in 1938, looked in the 1960s
Gary Neville (top right) and Paul Scholes (bottom, second right) on the subs bench during a match between United and Liverpool at The Cliff
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This is the place where George Best fine-tuned his skills and where the historic treble was orchestrated. It was at one time the envy of rivals. It had floodlights before Old Trafford.
The Cliff is Manchester United. It is etched into the club's rich history. Its role, from 1938 to the turn of the century, will never be erased. It is as United as the Holy Trinity, the Stretford End and Duncan Edwards. As 1968 and 1999.
But these days The Cliff is something else.
It is a crumbling, neglected relic. An afterthought. The building where the magic was made, where the post-Munich rebuild was designed and where Ferguson's phone rang off the hook is now surrounded by scaffolding.
Kids from United's younger age groups who still practice there nervously joke about bits of it falling off. A sign warning visitors against entering is stuck above the main entrance. It is dated 2014.
To some, The Cliff is now a stark symbol of the Glazer family's ownership of Manchester United.
'If you want to know about the Glazers and what they feel about the club get yourself to The Cliff,' a contact had told me as we spoke about the ongoing sale process and their hope of a new buyer.
'The place should be a museum, somewhere to be proud of. But it's had hardly any money spent on it in 20 years and it is falling to bits. It's shameful and it shows that the Americans do not care.'
United's American owners, the Glazer family, have been blamed for neglect of The Cliff
The entrance to The Cliff as it appears today and one of the training pitches on the site
But you don't have to walk too far to find evidence this famous place has been abandoned
A notice dating back to March 2014 warning visitors not to enter one of the buildings
Cracked glass and graffiti on the walls are what confronts visitors to The Cliff nowadays
A view looking over one of the match pitches to the grandstand on the far touchline
A chair with the padding ripped out is dumped outside one of the decaying buildings
The interior of one of the buildings is something of a time warp after years of neglect
The first impression, on a grey March evening, is that they were not wrong.
Nothing has changed from the days when journalists would hang around the car park, desperate for a quote and local kids would do likewise, only