Man Utd fans unite for minute's silence after Arena bombing

A Manchester United banner in the Rorstrandsgatan fan zone prior the Europa League Final Image copyright PA
Image caption Manchester United fans pitched a defiant banner in the Rorstrandsgatan fan zone

As Manchester's Red Devils prepared for one of their most important games in years, football fans observed a minute's silence in memory of the victims of Monday's bombing.

The attack may have tested the city's resolve, but it didn't stop thousands gathering to share a drink and a hug, and watch Manchester United's triumphant Europa League final.

Even the club's rivalries with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City were put to one side, and supporters around the world wished the team well.

"I can see tomorrow's headlines already," said fan Harry Charlton. "It will just say 'United'."

Mr Charlton was at the Old Nags Head in the city centre for the game, where fans watching on TV observed the same silence as the United players and their Dutch opponents Ajax did in the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

The pub has a reputation as one of the city's most diehard United-supporting venues.

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Media captionManchester United fans observed a minute’s silence before the match

The 33-year-old bricklayer said: "It's about unity. Manchester United has always been the most hated team in the world, because of its success, but I think everyone wants us to win this time.

"These attacks have hurt everybody. Everybody in the country. This match is a chance for the city and our friends everywhere to be united.

"A Manchester City fan walked past earlier with a club jacket on and he'd usually be told where to go. But even he said 'lads, I hope you win'."

Father-of-one Michael Noone, from Gorton, said he hoped the team would show the same fight and resolve that was so evident in the city's defiant response to the attack.

Image caption Manchester United fans including Michael Noone, left, and Harry Charlton watched the match at the Old Nags Head

In the end, Manchester United's 2-0 win saw them take the trophy and return to the Champions League.

"Usually we have the big rivalries, like with City and Liverpool, but everybody has come together, regardless of the colour of their football shirts," the 35-year-old recruitment manager said.

"The reaction has been huge, and this is just another way to help bring people together.

"You have a big terror attack like this but so much good has come out afterwards. It's just a shame it had to happen at all."

However, despite regular renditions of the usual football songs and chants, Daniel Constable, of Levenshulme, said he detected a sombre quality in the atmosphere.

"It was a bit different getting the taxi into town," he said. "You could see it in the eyes of everybody walking around. I think everyone's thinking about the same things.

"But the sun is shining and its been good to see everybody coming out happy to watch the game."

From Bill Rice, BBC Radio Manchester, in Stockholm

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption In Stockholm, the atmosphere was said to be sombre and understated

The mood among Manchester United fans shifted from understated and sombre following Monday's attack to hope and expectation in Sweden.

Keiron, a student in Manchester who travelled to the Swedish capital, says the response from the city of Manchester has been "incredible".

"They are such great people and so willing to rally round in difficult times," he said before kick-off.

"The atmosphere in Stockholm has been a little bit subdued. In the stadium it is going to be emotional, but I hope we use that emotion to perform better and bring the trophy home."

Fans travelling to the game were quiet, after many had spent much of Monday night checking on friends and loved ones. They were tired because of it.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Manchester United players observed a minute's silence in tribute to the victims of the Manchester attack

However, by Wednesday in the sunshine and heat of Stockholm, fans were drinking, chanting and looking forward to the final, albeit with mixed feelings.

Ryan, from Worsley, admitted it had not been quite the same as previous trips into Europe.

While he is "looking forward to it", he said it was "on a bit of a downer, we want to be happy but at the same time we are worried about everyone at home".

Lee, also from Worsley, said the game was less important to him. "I think you realise it's just a game of football," he said.

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