Rangers fans to be kept in holding zone ahead of Manchester United Champions League clash
The Champions League match between Manchester United and Rangers will be a "totally different game under totally different circumstances" from the riot-hit 2008 Uefa Cup Final, a police chief said today.
Rangers fans will be put in a holding zone at Wigan Athletic's DW stadium ahead of their team's European group tie next week in a bid to prevent a rerun of the violent clashes in Manchester which marred the showpiece event.
The 3,500 supporters will travel on coaches laid on by the Scottish club for the September 14 match, with tickets handed out during the coach transfer from the stadium to Old Trafford for the evening kick-off.
Greater Manchester Police today advised ticketless Rangers fans there was "no reason to come to this city" with no special events planned - unlike in 2008 when all followers of the Glasgow club were welcomed with open arms.
Council bosses added that the game would not be shown on big screens.
Two years ago an estimated 125,000 Rangers fans, most without tickets for the game at the City of Manchester stadium, descended on the city, drinking pubs and supermarkets dry, but trouble erupted in a fan zone after a giant screen in Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre failed close to kick-off time.
Officers were attacked and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused.
Last week 11 of the troublemakers were jailed by a judge who described the events as "the worst night of violence and destruction suffered by Manchester city centre since the blitz".
Police fear United's own hooligan element could seek revenge for the scenes that surrounded the final which Rangers lost 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg.
Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: "Inevitably people will attempt to draw comparisons with the 2008 Uefa Cup Final and the disorder that followed.
"I want to stress quite strongly that this is a totally different game under totally different circumstances. This match is part of a group stage and not a one-off final.
"As a result, like any other similar fixture, we are advising people without tickets not to travel for the game.
"Football fans should only come to Manchester if they have a valid ticket for the match. If you don't have a ticket there is no reason to come to this city - no special events will be put on for you.
"Away supporters will only be able to travel by coach. They will meet at the DW stadium in Wigan where they will have a couple of hours to relax in their reception areas.
"They will then be transported by official coach to Old Trafford. Supporters have to be on those coaches to pick up their tickets.
"Of course we welcome genuine football fans with tickets with open arms and hope it will be an enjoyable event for everyone who attends."
Mike Amesbury, Manchester City Council's executive member for culture and leisure, said: "This is an early group stage match so the circumstances are entirely different to the 2008 Uefa Cup Final but we will be working closely with the police to make sure that there is no repeat of what happened then.
"We will not be showing the game on big screens, as would be the case for any group stage match.
"Manchester regularly hosts major sporting events and week in week out we work with Premiership clubs to ensure fans both home and away enjoy their sport in our city."