Manchester United play Roma on Wednesday night, in what is a rather meaningless game considering that both teams have already qualified for the next round. However, on a personal level, this game means a lot to both sides due to the events of last season.
In the first leg, United fans were stabbed by Ultras, Roma’s firm members, before and after the game, whilst several other fans were beaten up by the over zealous police force inside the ground. The pictures shown back home were horrifying, with men repeatedly being hit over the head despite lying on the ground and bleeding.
In the return leg, the United fans were well up for it. There were more police vans and horses outside the ground that day than I’ve seen in some time. United fans stood proudly outside the East Stand, singing abuse at the Roma fans and hurling cans of beer in their general direction. United went on to humiliate their team, dishing out a 7-1 thrashing.
When the teams were drawn in the same group again this year, there were concerns over further violence. The home leg was played back in October and United won thanks to a quality of goal from Rooney, who will captain the team in Wednesday night’s clash. However, it is the away match which is more dangerous, and I would be extremely surprised if something didn’t kick off over there.
The Italian Police have issued a statement today to advise the United fans on how to avoid trouble. “The local police HQ in Rome is going to arrange an escort for United supporters moving to the stadium on the day of the match,” a police spokesperson said. “The United supporters should assemble in Piazzale delle Canestre (Canestre Square), close to Villa Borghese park. The escort will start at 4.30pm.”
Phil Townsend, United’s communications director, has spoken out today, playing down any chance of violence. “We always give our fans information on travelling to watch the team abroad,” he said. “Rome is a fantastic city and we’re keen our fans enjoy their visit as much as possible.”
Are you travelling to Rome for Wednesday’s match?