Manchester United fans leave the stand after a security announcement yesterday. Mike Egerton
mixed emotions

Sierra Leonean fan's Old Trafford heartache turns to Wembley joy

Army experts blew up a suspect device at the stadium — later revealed to be a dummy left from a training exercise.

A MAN UNITED fan from Sierra Leone, whose hopes of watching his first game at Old Trafford were dashed on Sunday, saw his despair turn to elation after other supporters clubbed together for him to attend next weekend’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

Army experts blew up a suspect device — later revealed to be a dummy left from a training exercise — after tens of thousands of fans were evacuated ahead of Manchester United’s final English Premier League game of the season, against Bournemouth.

For all the spectators at Old Trafford, which has a capacity of more than 76,000, it was a frustrating end to what should have been the final game of the season at United’s world-famous ground.

But for one supporter, calling himself Moses, from Sierra Leone, it was all the more disappointing as this should have been his first time watching a match at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

“This is Moses. He came from Sierra Leone to watch his first match at Old Trafford,” posted Ian Stirling of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) in a tweet that accompanied a photograph of a dejected-looking Moses.

But the trust ensured Moses’s long journey from Africa would be worthwhile by finding the money to re-arrange his flights, put him up for the week and get him a ticket to the FA Cup final, with United up against Crystal Palace at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

“Sadly they postponed the match — I was so sad about that — but they organised so I can stay another week and I’m excited about that!,” Moses told the BBC.

- ‘Distraught’ -

Stirling, a vice-chairman of MUST, said: “A friend of mine worked with Moses out in Sierra Leone and he said he should come over some time for a game.

“We heard the game was abandoned we had to tell Moses and the poor lad was distraught — being so close to the ground and not being able to go in, not knowing when he might get this chance again.

“We had a quick discussion between us and we’ve agreed to rearrange his flight — so he’ll fly home next week instead of tomorrow — and sort him out with a ticket for the FA Cup final. A couple of friends will put him up in Manchester as well.

“He’s still distraught at not getting into Old Trafford, that was his dream, but we’re trying to do the right thing for a friend.”

Moses could yet get his chance, however, after Premier League officials announced the game had been rescheduled for Tuesday.

Whilst fans were upset the game had been called off, many, speaking before police revealed the device was a fake, felt security personnel were right to be cautious.

“I’ve come from Wales and it’s just one of these things that you put up with. It’s good on the ground staff to be vigilant,” a supporter told AFP.

Meanwhile, local United fan Johnny Escott, from Salford, Greater Manchester, said that despite initial confusion and concern, supporters had largely reacted in an orderly fashion.

“It was a bit scary but no-one really started to panic massively, I walked past a few kids who were crying but everyone seemed quite calm.”

Following confirmation the incident had been a false alarm, it soon became the subject of jokes on social media.

Mollie Goodfellow, in a parody of the slogan from the movie ‘Fight Club’, wrote: “The first rule of Fake Bomb Club is that you do not leave behind your Fake Bomb.”

Meanwhile ‘Ken Shabby’ wrote that ‘Old Trafford training exercise was pretty full on’ above a looped clip of the 1960s movie ‘Batman’, showing Adam West in the title role running while carrying a giant unexploded bomb.

© – AFP 2016

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