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Manchester United fans trip to Old Trafford turns into nightmare as security blunder leads to Bournemouth fixture being abandoned

By Nevin Farrell

A furious football fan last night slammed those responsible for turning what should have been a memorable trip to the 'Theatre of Dreams' - Old Trafford - into a nightmare.

Marc Allen from Moira, Co Down, hit out after it emerged that the item which led to the evacuation of the stadium and the cancellation of a league match against Bournemouth, was "a training device which had accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise involving explosive search dogs".

A Greater Manchester Police statement said: "Shortly before today's planned football fixture, staff from the Manchester United ground alerted police to a suspicious item that had been found in the toilets within the North West Quadrant, between the Sir Alex Ferguson stand and the Stretford End.

"Police quickly attended and explosive experts were called in to assess the item, which has been described as an incredibly realistic-looking explosive device."

The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and the Stretford End were evacuated and sniffer dogs brought in.

Kick-off was delayed initially and shortly afterwards the match was abandoned on police advice.

A bomb disposal team carried out the explosion at about 4.30pm.

Assistant chief constable John O'Hare said: "I am grateful to the Manchester United and Bournemouth supporters for their support and assistance today.

"Following today's controlled explosion, we have since found out that the item was a training device which had accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise involving explosive search dogs.

"While this item did not turn out to be a viable explosive, on appearance this device was as real as could be, and the decision to evacuate the stadium was the right thing to do, until we could be sure that people were not at risk."

Last night Marc Allen (44), who travelled to Manchester with his son Scott along with friend Conor Nolan and his son Ewan (13), said the reason for the showpiece fixture being cancelled was "unbelievable".

He added: "I am gutted for the two boys because we have saved up all year for this and the two boys have ended up with absolutely nothing and it was a training device. I could not believe it when I heard it that this thing had been deliberately placed there. It is shocking."

Reports suggested it was a mobile phone device attached to pipes in the men's toilets.

Hundreds of fans from Northern Ireland were among the 50,000 spectators evacuated from the stadium.

John White (53), secretary of Carryduff Manchester United Supporters Club, said he and 50 members were at the match.

He said earlier on Sunday: "I'm just glad everybody is safe. There were all sorts of rumours.

Marc Allen with son Scott
Marc Allen with son Scott
Players leave the field
Fans file out of the stadium
A sniffer dog is brought in

"A couple said to me if anybody was going to be angry it would be us as we left home yesterday at 5am.

"But no, it is only a football match, at the end of the day everybody has walked away safe.

"Hopefully the guys that missed out today, if it was their first trip, we will see if they want to go back over with us next year so their dream will come true if they have never been before.

"I think they took the right decision to evacuate. There was no panic - I never saw a single person run."

Bryan Etherson (19), from Ballymena, was at the match with friends and said they were disappointed at the cancellation.

"We could see sniffer dogs in the other stand and then the next thing we heard the news filtering through because people were getting phone calls from their families and stuff. There was no panic but it is very disappointing."

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