Football: Start delayed as Manchester United bus is attacked by West Ham fans

Bottles are thrown at the Manchester United team bus before the match.
Bottles are thrown at the Manchester United team bus before the match.PHOTO: REUTERS
Police standing guard around the Manchester United team bus before the match.
Police standing guard around the Manchester United team bus before the match.PHOTO: REUTERS
Bottles are thrown at the Manchester United team bus before the match.
Bottles are thrown at the Manchester United team bus before the match. PHOTO: REUTERS
A smoke bomb is released among police and fans before the match.
A smoke bomb is released among police and fans before the match.PHOTO: REUTERS
People run from smoke bombs before the match.
People run from smoke bombs before the match. PHOTO: REUTERS
A West Ham fan lies on the ground as fans clash with police outside the stadium before the match.
A West Ham fan lies on the ground as fans clash with police outside the stadium before the match.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground farewell party turned sour before kickoff on Tuesday when Manchester United’s team bus was attacked by bottle-throwing home fans, causing a 45-minute delay to the kickoff.

Huge crowds, many without tickets, had congregated outside the stadium for the sell-out Premier League clash, West Ham’s final home game before moving to the 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium after 112 years at Upton Park.

United’s team coach became bogged down within sight of the stadium in Green Street where West Ham fans began pelting the windows with bottles and glasses while a smoke canister was also set off adding to the chaos.

United’s blacked-out coach suffered minor damage with at least one window shattered.

Police eventually managed to escort the United team to the entrance less than an hour before the scheduled 1845GMT kickoff, which was delayed by 45 minutes.

 

“It wasn’t nice, the coach got smashed up,” said Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney. “I’m sure you will see the images but it was disappointing.”

United manager Louis van Gaal, whose team can move ahead of Manchester City into fourth place with a win, looked visibly shaken by the incident as he walked towards the visiting dressing room.

“The way we have been received is not the proper way of course,” the Dutchman said. “That makes all the influence on the players and that is a pity.”

There was little sympathy for United from West Ham’s co-chairman David Sullivan.

“I think the police and officials have been kind, I would make them kick off at 7.45 (1845 GMT) if it was up to me. Manchester United know the score, they should have been here at four o’clock,” he said.

“I’m worried about the supporters. We had a wonderful show planned and some won’t be able to stay now.”

London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that one officer and a member of the public sustained minor injuries, but no arrests had been made.

West Ham have played at the 35,000-capacity Boleyn Ground since 1904 but will begin next season in the 700 million pounds (S$1.3 billion) Olympic Stadium after agreeing a 99-year lease.

A special farewell party is planned for after the final whistle on Tuesday, although there are fears that fans will invade the pitch and force it to be cancelled.

Before kickoff a marching brass band played the traditional football hymn Abide With Me while images of the club’s favourite son, England’s 1966 World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, were displayed on video screens.

So desperate were some West Ham fans to attend the historic fixture that there were reports of tickets being sold online for 2,000 pounds.

West Ham fans are buying the stadium’s fixtures and fittings, including seats, urinals, office doors and goalposts, in an auction.