Fear inside Old Trafford - and anger at ‘incompetence’

Empty stands after a security alert during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Empty stands after a security alert during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Manchester United fans from Northern Ireland who were caught up in Sunday’s security alert at Old Trafford have spoken of many women and children crying with fear.

More than 70,000 supporters were evacuated from the stadium following the discovery of what police called an “incredibly lifelike explosive device”.

The match was called off, but it was revealed last night that the suspicious object was a dummy device left behind after a security training exercise.

David Jameson from Portadown was one of those evacuated. He said that even some members of staff were visibly upset while escorting the fans to safety.

“It sounded serious,” he said.

“We realised it was serious and not a drill by the reaction of the Manchester United staff, with some crying. Quite a few women and children were crying in the car park. People were climbing over the railings and everything to get away,” Mr Jameson added.

Another Portadown man, Adam Morton, was also at Old Trafford. On Sunday night, he said he was extremely annoyed that human error had ruined his day - and left him out of pocket.

“I’m raging,” he said.

“Even on the plane home the fans were saying ‘better safe than sorry,’ but then I heard what actually happened. It’s total incompetence”.

Mr Morton said: “We got to our seats and then two or three minutes later they started evacuating the stands opposite us - the Alex Ferguson Stand and the Stretford End.

“Then they asked us, who were quite near the away fans, to remain in our seats. About five minutes later they evacuated the children who were the mascots due to walk out with the players.

“Armed policemen then walked through the Alex Ferguson Stand to sweep it. We had to stay in our seats as obviously they couldn’t let 70,000 all out at once.

“As the situation developed they told us the game was off and the situation looked serious. They asked us to stay calm, but to get as far away from the ground as we could once we were outside.”

Mr Morton said the police and security staff in his stand

“In fairness to the security staff and the police, it was all very calm. There was no sense of fear but, once you got out of the turnstiles, the police on horses were adamant that you must get away from the ground.

“We had to walk the long way around to the car park as they didn’t want us walking back across the stadium.

“Personally speaking I think it was better to be safe than sorry. From the reaction of the staff, although they were calm you got the sense there was something there, they were not taking this lightly.”

Mr Morton said that although he had spent a considerable amount of money on air fares and car hire to see a match that didn’t take place, he would not be deterred from travelling in future.

“I won’t think twice about going back. The way they handled the alert gives you confidence that they were on top of it.”