You would have thought with 100,000 Scots descending upon Manchester that I wouldn’t have been entirely oblivious to the fact the UEFA Cup Final was being held at the Wastelands this week.
The difference between the Champions League and UEFA Cup are certainly highlighted by choice of venue for the finals. The 2003 CL final was held at Old Trafford, with Milan beating Juventus to be crowned Champions. A mere five years later, the other European Cup competition final is held in Manchester, but this time at the sky blue 47,000 seater stadium owned by the council. What a kick in the teeth.
Big screens around Manchester showed the final between Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg, however, disaster struck when the one in Piccadilly Gardens broke. Over 20,000 fans stood in the centre of town, awaiting kick off, when the reality sunk in that the screen wasn’t working. 11,000 fans took the advice to bus it to the velodrome on the East side of town, whilst the remaining 10,000 poured out of the gardens to try and find a pub or bar where they could see a television screen. Of course, all the pubs in the nearby area were already packed, which lead to frustrated fans kicking off.
15 police officers were attacked, with 1 needed to spend the night in hospital for surgery. Ambulance crews needed escorts to travel in to the city centre to respond to calls, of which there were 2000 between 7pm and 7am.
This night of mayhem from the Rangers fans has had disastrous effects on United fans hoping to watch their team in the City centre next week.
“We had appalling scenes in Manchester last night, but we have to put that into context,” said City Council leader Sir Richard Leese. “The estimates vary between 100,000 and 200,000 Glasgow Rangers fans that we had in the city. Whatever that number, it’s an unprecedented movement of people.”
Because of the violence in the city, Leese has confirmed that such screens won’t be used to show the Champions League final next week. “We are sorry to Manchester United fans but we are very clear,” he said. “It would not be fair to residents and users of the city centre.”
I, for one, find this absolutely scandalous. What’s the problem? Just fix the fucking screen and we’re laughing. For thousands of United fans to be denied the opportunity of watching THEIR team playing in THEIR city is scandalous. This is one of the biggest nights in the club’s history and for fans being forced to re-arrange their plans at the last minute is unforgivable.
Instead, 1000s of fans who had been planning to watch the game out in the city centre will now have to cram themselves into what would have already been full venues, which is certainly more dangerous.
Manchester City council. Says it all.