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Old Trafford 'bomb' was training device

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Two of the Old Trafford stands were evacuated

A suspicious item discovered at Old Trafford on Sunday was a training device, police have confirmed.

The Premier League match between Manchester United and Bournemouth was called off after a suspect package was found shortly before kick-off and a controlled explosion carried out.

Police said the item had “accidentally” been left by a private company after a training exercise on Wednesday.

The match has been rearranged for Tuesday at 20:00 BST.

A Greater Manchester Police (GMP) statement read: “Shortly before today’s planned football fixture, staff from the Manchester United ground alerted police to a suspicious item that had been found in the toilets within the North West Quadrant, between the Sir Alex Ferguson stand and the Stretford End.

“Police quickly attended and explosive experts were called in to assess the item, which has been described as an incredibly realistic-looking explosive device.”

The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and the Stretford End were evacuated and sniffer dogs brought in.

Kick-off was delayed initially and shortly afterwards the match was abandoned on police advice.

A bomb disposal team carried out the explosion at about 16:30 BST.

Assistant chief constable John O’Hare said: “I am grateful to the Manchester United and Bournemouth supporters for their support and assistance today.

“Following today’s controlled explosion, we have since found out that the item was a training device which had accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise involving explosive search dogs.

“While this item did not turn out to be a viable explosive, on appearance this device was as real as could be, and the decision to evacuate the stadium was the right thing to do, until we could be sure that people were not at risk.”

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Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: “The club takes security very seriously and staff are regularly trained with the police and emergency services to identify and deal with these incidents.

“We will investigate the incident to inform future actions and decisions.”

Before it was announced the item was a training device, the Premier League praised both clubs and the emergency services for their response to the incident.

Fans will be allowed into Tuesday’s rearranged game as normal. Tickets for Sunday’s game remain valid and refunds are to be offered to any supporters unable to attend.

Bournemouth expect to make an announcement on arrangements for their travelling fans on Monday.

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Just under two hours before the controlled explosion was carried out, an “operation red code” alert had been heard over the public address system, and the players who were warming up had left the field.

Fans were then advised that, because of “the discovery of a suspect package in the north-west quadrant of the ground, the match has been abandoned for today on police advice”.

READ MORE: ‘Scary but calm’: Fans react to Old Trafford evacuation

Supporters who were still in the ground were advised to stay in their seats while the forecourt was cleared of fans who had been in the two stands that were evacuated.

United players were seen leaving the ground shortly after 16:30 BST. BBC commentator Conor McNamara said he saw Bournemouth players and staff boarding their team bus outside Old Trafford around an hour later.

The south coast club flew back to Bournemouth on Sunday night.

Manchester United had started Sunday with an outside chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League by finishing fourth in the Premier League.

However, Manchester City’s draw against Swansea in their final game means United are effectively out of the running, with City three points clear of United and possessing a goal difference that is 18 better than that of their rivals.

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Analysis

By Phil McNulty, BBC Sport chief football writer at Old Trafford:

“The first indications that all was not well at Old Trafford came when stewards swung into action and fans were evacuated from the Stretford End.

“Thousands of supporters were already inside Old Trafford when, in a well-organised drill, supporters in the giant Sir Alex Ferguson Stand were also moved out as a ‘Code Red’ operation was announced over Old Trafford’s public address system.

“Those in the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, where some had already gathered in the directors’ box, and the East Stand, where the Bournemouth supporters were assembled, were told to stay calm and remain in their seats.

“Bournemouth’s players had started their warm-up but they left the pitch swiftly once it became clear a security operation was under way as police moved in and a helicopter flew above the ground.

“Some Bournemouth fans were unhappy at the regular announcements to remain in their seats, especially after word had swept around Old Trafford that the game had been called off, but safety was understandably paramount.

“Once the official announcement was made to those still inside the stadium, there was an orderly exit, although roads around the ground remained cordoned off by police and stewards as fans were shepherded away from the area where police were carrying out an inspection of the suspect package.”

Old Trafford after it was evacuated

Manchester United tweet

Bournemouth Twitter

Police outside the Old Trafford stadium

Old Trafford being evacuated

Fans leave Old Trafford

A police sniffer dog at Old Trafford

Fire engine at Old Trafford

David de Gea (left) and Anders Herrera leaving Old Trafford

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal leaving Old Trafford

Bournemouth coach leaving Old Trafford

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