ENGLAND – British bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion following the discovery of a “suspect package” at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium ahead of a key soccer game Sunday.
Manchester police later tweeted that they had determined the package was not a “viable” device, but that a full search of the stadium was underway.
United had been due to play its final game of the English Premier League season but ahead of the kickoff two sections of the stadium were evacuated before the match was then abandoned.
“A controlled explosion has just been carried out within the stadium by bomb disposal experts at Old Trafford,” said a statement on Greater Manchester Police’s Twitter feed.
Police took the decision to call off the match as a British Army Disposal Unit was deployed to Old Trafford.
The game against Bournemouth could have seen United qualify for next season’s Champions League — European soccer’s biggest competition — if they had won and their local rivals Manchester City had lost away at Swansea.
United and the emergency services drew praise from many on social following the evacuation of the stadium
“Be thankful of that extraordinary work of authorities at Old Trafford helping to avoid a potential tragedy,” tweeted John Davies.
Liz Moore added: Outstanding work by Old Trafford security & Greater Manchester Police today. Could have been an unimaginable tragedy.”
The game in Manchester had been initially delayed after the suspect package’s discovery before the match was called off.
“Those inside OT are asked to remain seated while the forecourt is cleared of fans already evacuated from the stadium,” tweeted the club after the announcement of the match’s abandonment.
Before that decision was taken, two stands — the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and the Stretford End — had been evacuated and sniffer dogs brought in to search the stands of the 75,000 capacity stadium.
The Premier League issued a statement on its Twitter feed saying that it would rearrange the fixture “as soon as practically possible.”
Assistant Chief Constable John O’Hare, of Greater Manchester Police said: “We don’t make these decisions lightly and we have done this today to ensure the safety of all those attending.”
Later Sunday, Manchester City drew 1-1 with Swansea to secure a place in next season’s Champions League competition.