Sunday 22 April 2018

Fergie confident of trouble-free Old Trafford contest

Mark Ogden

Sir Alex Ferguson insists tonight’s Champions League clash between Manchester United and Rangers will pass off without incident off the pitch, despite criticising the ‘appalling’ behaviour of the Scottish club’s fans following the 2008 Uefa Cup final in Manchester.

Rangers were slow to sell their allocation of 3,700 tickets for tonight’s Group C clash at Old Trafford but are understood to have now sold out.

But with strict measures in place to prevent a repeat of the violence that marred the aftermath of the Uefa Cup final defeat against Zenit St Petersburg at Eastlands two years, the authorities are determined to ensure every precaution has been taken.

Rangers fans will be transported from Scotland on official buses to Wigan’s DW Stadium, where they will then be handed match tickets before continuing their journey to Old Trafford.

With such tight security in place, United manager Ferguson – a former Rangers player – is confident that the scenes of 2008 will not be repeated at Old Trafford.

Speaking in his programme notes for tonight’s game, Ferguson said: “We in Manchester have good cause to remember the Uefa Cup final (in 2008) because it was played in Manchester at Eastlands in a match that pained me as some of the visiting supporters of the Scottish side ran amok in the city centre.

“It saddened me because I was at the game with my grandson Jake, though actually inside the ground there was no trouble.

“It was party time and I have to say that unfortunate events disrupted plans to entertain the hordes of fans who had come down without hope of a ticket.

“It was a good idea to have big screens showing the match live, but hardly helpful when, for whatever reason, the relay failed.

“It's no excuse for the appalling behaviour of a certain section of fans, but it must have been mightily frustrating for everyone. All I can say is that I have every confidence that we can stage a trouble free game.

“We have worked hard on the security aspect and feel the plan to take the visiting supporters to the Wigan ground for ticket distribution before bringing them to Old Trafford by bus should help.”

Tonight’s game is not expected to be a sell-out. United still have tickets left unsold and, with a sense of apathy within Manchester towards the so-called Battle of Britain, plus continuing opposition to the Glazer family, the attendance this evening could drop below 70,000.

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