THE Portuguese Internal Affairs minister has praised the police for firing rubber bullets and CS gas at Manchester United fans after last week's Champions League game at Porto.
The statement will infuriate United whose secretary, Ken Merrett, is expected in Switzerland today to present United's views to a UEFA meeting which will discuss the troubles.
Some at United want to go so far as demanding an apology from the Portuguese government. But far from that, the minister Alberto Costa said yesterday that police were fully justified in reacting as they did. "They performed their duty," he said, "and prevented what could have been a disaster."
Porto police said that they fired on some of the 10,000 United fans to keep them from leaving the stadium before local supporters had dispersed.
However, the action of 450 riot police drafted in especially for the game from Lisbon left United stunned. Relatives of United personnel, including Alex Ferguson's wife, were caught up in the trouble and an angry United manager complained: "The police in Portugal were belligerent and dressed for battle."
Gary Neville talked of "grown men on the terraces shouting `they are beating us up'." There were even reports of the local Porto police apologising to United fans for the riot police's behaviour.