Spalletti fears for United's travelling support
Luciano Spalletti sounded a despairing note yesterday as he contemplated a repeat of the violence which saw nine Manchester United fans hospitalised after they were ambushed by knife-wielding Ultras before their side's Champions League group stage match against Roma in December.
"It's not easy to say that somebody who carries a knife will change their ways," the Roma coach said.
But Uefa warned Roma's fans that the 2009 Champions League final will be moved from the Stadio Olimpico if there is a repeat of the December ambush of United fans on the Duca d'Aosta bridge or of the even greater violence which marred last season's quarter-final meeting here. "We cannot afford to organise the final of the Champions League in a city where people are getting knifed every game," said Uefa's communications director, William Gaillard.
British fans are by no means singled out for attacks. Real Madrid fans were subjected to violence in the first knockout stage game here and even the Manchester media entourage needed a police escort yesterday following the stoning of the Madrid equivalent last month.
United warned their own supporters to avoid Rome's Campo de Fiori piazza, and metro routes used by Ultras, and the club has again brought its own netting to cover seats in narrow buffer zones between rival fans at tonight's sell-out match. A list of 20 potential Manchester trouble-makers was handed to Rome's security forces at a meeting staged yesterday morning and United have, as usual, travelled with Greater Manchester Police officers as well as club security staff.
Though the sell-out means there will not be the same vast bank of empty terraces which separated fans in December, United are anticipating that their own security contingent will mean no riot police in the away end where they were baton-charged last season.
But the major threat is posed by those Roma fans who wait for those visiting fans who fail to take advice and catch the free buses. In 2006, three Middlesbrough fans were stabbed. Spalletti made an emotional appeal. "We can't control everything," he said. "But I say this to our supporters: we give you a very good time, so give us a stadium with emotion and feelings but please, no violence."