Security firm to be axed after £3m Man Utd bomb 'fiasco'
United pay the price as final game of the season is called off after massive security blunder
Manchester United have come in for plenty of criticism for their football this season, but the reaction to the bomb-scare "fiasco" that led to the abandonment of their game against Bournemouth puts all that in the shade.
United's final match of the season will now take place on Tuesday night after a fake bomb – left behind after a training exercise at the ground – triggered a real-life security scare on Sunday, leaving the club red-faced and humiliated.
Old Trafford was evacuated 20 minutes before kick off after a steward found the dummy device taped to the back of a toilet door. The "incredibly lifelike" bomb was eventually destroyed in a controlled explosion after 76,000 fans were forced to leave the stadium and the game was called off.
John O'Hare, Greater Manchester Police's assistant chief constable, defended the police reaction. "On appearance this device was as real as could be and the decision to evacuate the stadium was the right thing to do," he said.
But there will be repercussions for United and their security contractors. Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner, described the situation as a "fiasco" that not only embarrassed United and the Premier League but constituted a waste of police time and resources.
"This was the first time in 24 years that a Premier League match has been cancelled on security grounds and provided a dramatic, disturbing and ultimately embarrassing end to one of the most unpredictable top flight seasons in memory," says the Daily Telegraph.
"It is highly likely that the private security company responsible for the incident that led to Old Trafford being evacuated are to be dumped by the club," says the paper, but they are not the only ones to blame.
"It is one thing for the device to be left by a private firm – and another for it not to be found before the public were exposed to the risk and then the fear that a bomb might be about to go off. That is a double security blunder and one that does not reflect well on one of the biggest football clubs in the world," says Jason Burt of The Telegraph.
With just 26 days until Euro 2016 starts, the incident "will have caused a shudder of apprehension for the organisers", he adds.
United acted correctly and efficiently in evacuating the stadium after a steward found the device. "There was only one catch," says Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail. "The whole episode was their fault, at least in part.
"Why was the device not spotted in the security sweep that surely takes place of all public areas ahead of each game?" he asks. "Why didn't someone on United's huge match day security team realise that a training routine had been carried out in the North Stand so recently? Why didn't somebody join the dots?
"Falling standards on the field have been hard enough to take. Nothing, though, will embarrass them as much as this."
The episode could have major repercussions for the club, says The Times. It will cost United around £3m and has "thrown their FA Cup final preparations into turmoil".
The game, which is essentially meaningless as United cannot qualify for the Champions League after Sunday's other results, will now take place on Tuesday, four days before the cup final.
Entry to Old Trafford will be free, says The Times, and it is likely that manager Louis van Gaal will field an unrecognisable team.