Old Trafford evacuated and Manchester United match called off

The device which forced the abandonment of Manchester United's Premier League clash with AFC Bournemouth 'wasn't viable', Greater Manchester Police have said.

Manchester United Premier League AFC Bournemouth Greater Manchester Police

An empty stand at Old Trafford after fans were evacuated Source: AAP

What was supposed to be an important final league match of the campaign instead ended with fans being evacuated from Old Trafford before kick-off, with players ushered off the pitch during the warm-up.

A security alert in the stadium's North West Quadrant led to spectators in the Stretford End and Sir Alex Ferguson Stand being evacuated from the ground, before the remaining fans were told to follow as the match had been abandoned due to a security alert.

Bomb disposal exerts carried out a controlled explosion on a suspect package just after 4.30pm local time and Great Manchester Police later announced in a statement on Twitter:

Security personnel were told to invoke 'operation red code' around 2.40pm and shortly after 3.15pm those remaining in the ground were informed the game was off.

A bomb disposal unit van was seen arriving at the stadium shortly before 4pm, with four fire engines joining ambulances at the back of the Stretford End.

Perimeter security staff were told to stand down at 6pm at which point stewards were still patrolling car parks as hundreds of staff sat outside.

There still remains the issue of when this final match of the Premier League season will be played.

A Premier League source told Press Association Sport it will be a 'logistical challenge' to organise. United are busy this weekend when they face Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final, after which many of their players will disperse for international duty ahead of EURO 2016.

A statement from the Premier League read: "The decision to abandon the Manchester United versus AFC Bournemouth match was taken after the police advised of the necessity to deal with a suspect package.

"When it comes to matters of security it is obviously right that Manchester United and the Premier League place the safety of supporters and employees foremost.

"The Premier League will seek to rearrange the fixture as soon as practically possible and will advise fans accordingly. It is always the last resort to abandon one of our fixtures and while we apologise for the inconvenience we are sure, in the circumstances, they will appreciate the need to do so."

The nature of the disposal could affect the ability of Old Trafford to host the match, which is a situation that is being assessed by the Premier League.

At least one Bournemouth player had heard suggestions the match would be behind closed doors if played this week, however no official decision has yet been taken.

It is understood that both sets of players were kept in the dressing rooms for around 40 minutes before being taken to a suite, being looked after by security and hospitality staff.

They mingled and watched football on television, mostly departing after Manchester City's match at Swansea City finished.

United manager Louis van Gaal and the Bournemouth team coach left Old Trafford at around 5.30pm.

As supporters left the stadium, there was inevitably disappointment that the game did not go ahead.

Sam Stride, a United supporter from Bristol, said: "Unbelievable. This is the first time I have been to Old Trafford to see a game.

"My mate and I have known each other for 63 years and we travelled up from Bristol together.

"We sat in the Stretford End for about five seconds before they asked us to leave. It's very disappointing."

Sean Bones, vice-chairman of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust, said: ''It is obviously a dark day in Premier League history. We have obviously got to give our thanks to the club and the authorities for getting supporters out of the ground safely and home to their families.

''If it turns out there was a bomb at Old Trafford it is obviously a concern that we have these type of people in our midst and it is going to have a huge effect on security at football matches in the future.''

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville wrote on Twitter:

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4 min read
Published 16 May 2016 at 3:58am
By Andy Hampson, Simon Peach
Source: PA Sport