Manchester United’s bomb hoax match rearranged for Tuesday night
Bournemouth match called off after suspect device discovered in Old Trafford
Fans react after the English Premier League match between Manchester United and Bournemouth is called off because of a bomb scare at Old Trafford. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
The final day of the Premier League season ended in chaos when Manchester United’s game against Bournemouth was called off for bomb-disposal experts to carry out a controlled explosion on a hoax bomb the police have described as “incredibly lifelike”.
Security chiefs at Old Trafford ordered an evacuation after discovering what high-ranking United officials have told the Guardian consisted of a taped device, including a mobile phone and protruding wires, strapped to a gas pipe in a concealed area at the back of the North West Quadrant.
A routine search discovered the item, sparking an “Operation Code Red” message as part of the increased security measures that have been in place since the Paris terrorist attacks last November, when one of the bombers tried to get into France’s game against Germany at the Stade de France.
United’s checks are regarded among the most rigorous in the league, and a day of high drama is likely to lead to security being beefed up again when Louis van Gaal’s team play in the FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday. Ander Herrera, the United midfielder, talked later about “nerves and tension” as the two sets of players were kept in the dressing rooms while the detonation took place and sniffer dogs checked the rest of the stadium.
The police later confirmed the device “wasn’t viable” and the bill from abandoning the game is likely to run into millions of pounds, as well as creating what has been described as the “logistical nightmare” of trying to rearrange the fixture.
That was complicated by United preparing to meet Crystal Palace at Wembley and the club needing to bring in health and safety experts to determine whether the possible damage caused by a controlled explosion had led to any structural damage.
Old Trafford needed its safety certificate to be reviewed before the club was able to announce the game would take place tomorrow night at 8pm. The club later confirmed that via its Twitter account.
Bournemouth’s players were not allowed to leave the stadium for the journey back to the south coast until three hours after the drama began.
Van Gaal’s players watched on television as Manchester City made sure of finishing above their neighbours for the third successive season.
“Manchester United treated us very well,” Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager, said.
“They put us in a nice area and we were able to relax and see what was going to happen next. We decided to come back to Bournemouth because there was no sign of the game being played the next day. So we returned home and will wait to see what happens.”
Blackpool’s game against Huddersfield was declared a 0-0 draw and never replayed after a pitch invasion caused its abandonment on the final day of the 2014-15 season but in United’s case the game has to be rescheduled because of the implications on the rest of the league.
United’s hopes of finishing in the top four have been all but eliminated because of Manchester City’s 1-1 draw at Swansea City, a result that means Pep Guardiola will inherit a side in the Champions League qualifiers, and Southampton’s 4-1 win against Crystal Palace means Van Gaal’s team have now dropped to sixth position on goal difference.
A draw against Bournemouth would put them back in fifth position, as well as guaranteeing entry to the Europa League, and there is also the small matter of every place in the top division being worth an extra £1.2 million (€1.5 million) in prize money. The same applies to Bournemouth, who are 16th but could climb above Palace and West Brom with a victory in their final game.