Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United stars left stunned by bomb scare, says Juan Mata

Spanish ace recalls feeling of tension and admits top four flop comes as bitter blow

By Andy Hampson

Juan Mata has said he and his Manchester United team-mates were "shocked" by the bomb scare at Old Trafford, revealing: "We all had a strange feeling; a mixture of tension and misunderstanding".

Sunday's game between Manchester United and Bournemouth was postponed following the discovery of a suspect package in the stadium.

It transpired it was nothing more than a dummy device mistakenly left behind after a training exercise, however that was only discovered after a full evacuation and controlled explosion inside the Theatre of Dreams.

The game will now be played tonight having been hastily rearranged.

"We were all shocked by what happened at Old Trafford on Sunday," Mata wrote in his regular blog.

"The performance of all the people in charge of security was efficient and there was a rapid evacuation of the stadium. That helped not to spread panic, but we all had a strange feeling; a mixture of tension and misunderstanding.

"Fans left the stadium before us. I think we left Old Trafford around five, with the feeling that everything was under control.

"I am sorry that all these people had to go home without seeing a football game, which is what they had come to see.

"Safety, of course, is always most important. But what I feel is that all these kinds of issues affecting football, sport and society in general, many of us think that sport has the ability to unite people, and that is something we must keep believing."

Heading into the match, United had a hope of finishing among the top four and qualifying for the Champions League, however that has been extinguished after Manchester City moved three points ahead with a vastly better goal difference by drawing with Swansea.

It renders the game against Bournemouth almost pointless for the Red Devils, who are preparing for the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

"It will be a bittersweet farewell to Old Trafford, after learning that we will not be in the Champions League," added Mata.

"Of course, it leaves us with a bad taste because although we enjoyed good times together and shared joys, we have failed to qualify for the top European competition.

"Certainly there were many difficulties, especially for the many injuries suffered by the team, but Manchester United must be ambitious and strive for the maximum."

Events at Old Trafford on Sunday took attention away from speculation over United manager Louis van Gaal's future.

Van Gaal has been under heavy scrutiny for most of the season and there have been reports his position was dependent on whether United reached the top four or not.

It remains to be seen whether tonight now proves to be his final game at Old Trafford or whether he continues, or if the FA Cup final may yet have a bearing.

Victory for Eddie Howe's Cherries, whose first season in the top-flight has been a success, would lift them two places to 14th.

Van Gaal may now field a different side from that intended as he prepares for Wembley, but midfielder Marouane Fellaini is suspended.

Fans who were at Old Trafford for the original game on Sunday have been offered a refund and free entry to the rescheduled fixture tonight, a gesture that it is estimated will cost the club around £3m.

Belfast Telegraph

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