MK Dons vs Manchester United: 'Selling out our ground makes it all worthwhile'

Pete Winkelman will find vindication on Tuesday night for the MK Dons controversy

To many football followers Pete Winkelman is football’s Fagin, the man who pickpocketed Wimbledon from south London and moved the club 50 miles away to Milton Keynes.

More than a decade on the condemnation still rages in many quarters. But Winkelman, the club’s chairman, was a man with a mission: to give big-time football to the fastest-growing place in England.

Tonight he will be dewy-eyed as he looks around the £100m stadium he masterminded and sees it full for a Milton Keynes Dons match. It will be the first time that has happened for the League One club and the reason, of course, is that Manchester United are in town for a League Cup second-round tie.

Read more: Angel Di Maria undergoes medical

“Will I feel vindicated? It’s not about feeling vindicated, I’ll feel pleased,” says Winkelman. “I would like to have done something that could be respected rather than upsetting. But it was always about a stadium for Milton Keynes. I knew that and being able to fill the stadium for this match shows other people that the idea of top-flight football in Milton Keynes is still alive. It’s been worth all the personal [criticism].”

Winkelman admits to being naïve when he planned the introduction of league football to Milton Keynes. “Do I still feel the same way as I did 10 years ago? No,” he says. “I understand the culture of English football much more, so I have many different feelings about how we got here.

“But what is clear is that there had to be football here. Milton Keynes is still the fastest-growing place in the UK. It has been for 30 years. There are 265,000 people here – it was 180,000 when I moved here. What a game like Man United proves is that if you can deliver something exciting people are going to respond.”

Louis van Gaal takes his time the Milton Keynes Louis van Gaal takes his time the Milton Keynes  

United are more used to the Nou Camp than the Moo Camp, as the locals have dubbed the stadium thanks to Milton Keynes’ legendary concrete cows, and that is why it sold out so quickly. “It’s phenomenal,” says Winkelman. “We have had a queue of people 100 metres long outside the ticket office.”

As if to rub salt into Wimbledon’s wounds, AFC were the team MK Dons knocked out in the first round. That win was only the second meeting between them, the first being an FA Cup tie in 2012.

“There is an irony about that,” says Winkelman. “It was more of a normal game against AFC this time and I was pleased to see that. The first time was just a heavy day. I have great respect for what they have achieved. What I want to do is concentrate on my own club, go through the leagues and have some promotions ourselves.”

To that end Tuesday’s game will generate £500,000 which, after the league’s cut, he will have to share with United. “Not that United need it as much as we do,” he says. “ But what it gives us is a cushion. We run our budgets to the absolute maximum.

“Tonight is a dream come true. I watched the draw and all the way through I didn’t expect it to happen. When it got to the end, it was Milton Keynes at home and No 11 [Man Utd] hadn’t come out. We all went, ‘Oh my God’. But it is real – they’re coming here.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones