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Man United could trial safe standing at Old Trafford this season - sources

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Manchester United have asked for permission to introduce safe standing at Old Trafford and sources have told ESPN there could be a trial as early as this season.

The club have applied to install rail seating for 1,500 fans in a submission made to the local Safety Advisory Group. The committee is reviewing the request.

The proposal would see seats replaced in the north east quadrant of the stadium.

In minutes of a fans' forum held in January, United said the introduction of safe standing would "enhance spectator safety in areas where -- as with other clubs -- we have seen examples of persistent standing."

United have experienced long-running problems with fans refusing to sit down in parts of their all-seater Old Trafford ground but rail seats are designed to lock into a folded position, giving fans space to stand.

"We hope to see this progress as quickly as possible as we have long argued that rail seats are a safety enhancement as well as popular with many fans whether they prefer to stand or indeed prefer to remain seated throughout the game in other areas with an unobstructed view," a statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust [M.U.S.T] said on Tuesday.

"The North East Quadrant [lower] was selected initially as it has been an area where persistent standing has been established dating back over more than six years."

Tottenham's new stadium already includes sections of rail seating and it has been used effectively at grounds across Europe, particularly in Germany. Nearly 3,000 rail seats were installed at Celtic Park in 2016 and there is also a section at Wolves' Molineux Stadium.

The Premier League and Football League have both said they will support clubs choosing to implement safe standing if local authorities allow it.

"We were told many times over the years that we were wasting our time and it would never happen," M.U.S.T said. "Finally we can see the end is in sight."

United's bid for safe standing was welcomed by Jon Darch, of the Safe Standing campaign group.

"It is fantastic news that the world's most famous club is seeking to enhance spectator safety in this way," he told Reuters.

"I can see no reason why [the Sports Minister] shouldn't give Spurs, Wolves, Man United and any other club fitting such seats the green light to operate safe standing as soon as the seats are in place and the safety authorities are happy."

Meanwhile, United are also set to discuss fan proposals to improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and captain Harry Maguire.

Supporters want the prematch music turned off when the players emerge from the tunnel and for the team to applaud fans from the centre circle before kick off.

Minutes of the fans' forum read: "We had received a request to turn off the music played as the team come out of the tunnel, enabling the crowd to build the atmosphere naturally.

"Forum members agreed that this was worth trialling, providing it was what the players wanted, and the club will now speak to the management and captain to gain player opinions and revert back to the forum.

"Forum members also requested that as they come onto the pitch the players gather on the centre circle and applaud the fans. This will also be discussed with management and the captain."