Getting to the ground
You can catch a tram from the city centre to the ground. It's £3.20 return. Note that St Peters is better than Piccadilly gardens because it's a more frequent service. It's also the most convenient stop for the Waterhouse or City Arms. You get off at Old Trafford, or Exchange Quay or Pomona depending on which service you catch. Basically, follow everyone else for getting off and walking to the ground. Exchange Quay is better than Pomona after the game because trams stop there first. A taxi, if you can find one, is a reasonably quick and cheap way of getting to the ground. However, the best way to get from the city centre to the ground is by train. A special service operates from Piccadilly (platform 14), picking up at Oxford Road, to 'Manchester United Football Ground', a station at the back of the main stand that's only used on match days. There are 3 or 4 trains before the game, with the last one leaving Piccadilly around half an hour before kick off. There's usually a notice showing train times near the entrance to Piccadilly. Get on the train right at the back and you'll be less than 50 yards from the away turnstiles when you get off. The fare in 2008/9 was 3 quid single or return (so get a return!). The first train back to Piccadilly leaves around 10 minutes after the end of the game. Even if you miss that one you'll still get back much sooner than if you go to Old Trafford for a tram (you could have to queue for up to an hour!). The special buses are a better bet than the tram. But the train's best!
All the pubs around the ground are basically home fans only. There is though one place near Old Trafford tram stop, the Quadrant, which allegedly gets a mixture of home and away fans. Not only that, there are a few takeaways very nearby, not to mention an offy in case service in the pub is really bad. The pubs in Lowry Mall are also apparently ok for away fans. Another option is Sale town centre, which is only 8 minutes away by tram (from Old Trafford stop).
When travelling over by train our usual pre-match haunt was for a long time the Waldorf, near Piccadilly, a proper pub with a decent range of beers and basic food. It has though recently been done out and gone a bit upmarket. Alternatively, some of our lot prefer Sinclairs, which is a Sam Smiths pub over towards Victoria. Being Sams, it has cheap beer. However, they no longer have hand pumps, plus they'll only serve you in plastic glasses. A couple of pubs that are worth the hike are the Crown and Anchor (beer nothing special, but excellent pub food) and the Unicorn (lively, relatively cheap belting beer).
It goes without saying that there are a few Wetherspoons outlets around. Possibly to be avoided is the one in Piccadilly Gardens, imaginatively called Wetherspoons. If you arrive at Victoria you might want to check out the Seven Stars. But the best is probably the Waterhouse, which is apparently not your typical Spoons and gets good reviews. Next door to the Waterhouse is the City Arms, which is a belting pub with around eight real ales on at any one time.
City centre pub map
Football Ground Guide