Sunderland man speaks of Old Trafford terror drama as Manchester United game called off due to suspect package

A Sunderland dad has told of how he was caught up in the Old Trafford terror alert as Manchester United's game was abandoned today.

Sunday, 15th May 2016, 4:41 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th May 2016, 5:51 pm
There was a huge crowd outside of Old Trafford after the evacuation. This picture was sent in by Andy Barker.

Andy Barker, 51, of Thornhill, was at the ground with son Jack, 14, as well as friend Ian Reddel and his son Sam, 12, to see the Red Devils take on Bournemouth in the final game of the Premier League season.

The Sunderland fans had been given tickets to the match, but did not see any football after a suspicious package was found in the stadium.

Police sniffer dogs searched part of the ground after the evacuation.

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The 76,000-capacity crowd was evacuated 20 minutes before the planned kick-off time of 3pm, with first of all those in the west and east stands told to leave the ground calmly.

Later, the game was officially called off, and a controlled explosion was carried out by Army bomb disposal experts.

Initially, though, most of those inside the ground were unaware as to the seriousness of the situation.

Andy, a former Echo reporter, said: "The first we suspected anything might be wrong was when it came over the public address system that the security officer should go somewhere. We thought that was a bit strange.

Manchester United were due to play their final league game of the season.

"After that, they said everyone in the west and north stands should go quietly to the exits, but even then, we didn't realise how serious it might be.

"It was still very calm and very quiet, and we were just wondering why we had to leave."

Andy and thousands of other supporters then waited outside the stadium before being advised to move further away.

He added: "Another announcement told us to move away from the ground to where the car parks were.

Police sniffer dogs searched part of the ground after the evacuation.

"What was daft was that as everyone was moving away, it came over the loudspeakers telling security staff that it was a code red situation, having just told everyone to be calm.

"Once we moved to the car parks, we couldn't hear the loudspeakers, so we didn't know what was going on. Everyone was a bit confused.

"It slowly came through from mobile phones and social media that the game had been cancelled."

Despite the seriousness of the situation, there was "no panic" as supporters filed out of Old Trafford.

Manchester United were due to play their final league game of the season.

Andy added: "There were no people running about and no panic.

"First of all, we just thought it might be a hoax, or a fire.

"It does make you think, though, because despite the heavy security and everyone being searched as they go in, a scare like this can still happen."

Manchester United said the package was found in the North East Quadrant of Old Trafford.

Earlier, Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable John O'Hare said police were "awaiting the imminent arrival of military colleagues to come and support us and establish what exactly we are dealing with.

"We are doing everything we can to investigate this item as quickly as possible, however our priority is obviously to ensure the safety of everyone in the stadium and surrounding area.

"As a result, today's game has been abandoned and a controlled evacuation of the stadium has now taken place.

"We don't make these decisions lightly and we have done this today to ensure the safety of all those attending. I am thankful for everyone's support and assistance and we will continue to provide updates on this matter as soon as they become available."

A Premier League statement said the game would be rearranged "as soon as practically possible".

They said: "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 caused to fans we are sure, in the circumstances, they will appreciate the need to do so."