Saturday 20 January 2018

Europa League final opening ceremony will be considerably reduced as mark of respect for Manchester victims

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 23: A view of the UEFA Europa League trophy ahead of the UEFA Europa League Final between Ajax and Manchester United at Friends Arena on May 23, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 23: A view of the UEFA Europa League trophy ahead of the UEFA Europa League Final between Ajax and Manchester United at Friends Arena on May 23, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Jack O'Toole

UEFA confirmed on Tuesday evening that the opening ceremony for Wednesday's Europa League final will be considerably reduced as a mark of respect for the victims of the Manchester terror attacks on Monday.

Swedish artists Axwell & Ingrosso were initially scheduled to play before the Manchester United-Ajax final at Stockholm's Friends Arena, however, the DJ duo have now been pulled from proceedings with a minute's silence now expected to take place before the game in honour of the victims from the Manchester terror attacks, were 22 people were killed and a further 59 people were injured.

European football’s governing body said in a statement: "Following last night's attack in Manchester, UEFA has confirmed that a minute's silence will be observed prior to the UEFA Europa League final in Stockholm on Wednesday night.

"The opening ceremony will also be considerably reduced as a mark of respect for the victims of the Manchester attack.

"This will mean that Swedish artists Axwell ^ Ingrosso will now not be performing before the final."

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said that the terror attack has dominated the thoughts of his players ahead of the game but that his squad has a job to do, as United attempt to win the Europa League and subsequently qualify for next season's Champions League as a direct consequence.

"We are all very sad about the tragic events last night," said Mourinho.

"We cannot take out of our minds and our hearts the victims and their families.

"We have a job to do and we will fly to Sweden to do that job. It is a pity we cannot fly with the happiness that we always have before a big game.

"I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one."

Mourinho led the team on a walk around the Friends Arena pitch upon arriving in Sweden and it is unclear how United's players and staff have been impacted by the explosion.

Many of the squad took to social media to express their sympathy and solidarity after the attack.

United captain Wayne Rooney posted on Twitter: "Devastating news this morning. Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected."

Daley Blind said he "can't believe what happened" and goalkeeper David De Gea expressed "much rage, much pain", with winger Jesse Lingard saying "this beautiful city" will "stand together in this dark hour".

Manchester United players are expected to wear black armbands during the game as a sign of respect for the victims, with the playing squad having already held a minute's silence at their final training session in Manchester before flying to Sweden on Tuesday.

*Additional reporting provided by Press Association

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