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Old Trafford bomb was left over training device

The suspicious package that led to Man United's final match of season being abandoned had been accidentally left behind from a training exercise

A suspicious package destroyed by a bomb disposal team after prompting the evacuation of Manchester United’s stadium on Sunday was a fake device accidentally left behind after a training exercise, police said.

Two of the Old Trafford stands were evacuated about 20 minutes before the scheduled kickoff of the Premier League game against Bournemouth at 1400 GMT when the item was found in the toilets at the ground. The match was called off soon afterwards and the whole 75,000-seater stadium cleared.

TV footage showed fire engines arriving at the stadium, one of the world’s most famous football grounds.

Police used sniffer dogs to search the area before calling in an army bomb disposal unit which carried out a controlled explosion on the item they described as being “an incredibly realistic-looking explosive device”.

“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,” Assistant Chief Constable John O’Hare from Greater Manchester Police said in a statement.

“Whilst 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.”

Police ordered Manchester United to abandon their final Premier League game of the season against Bournemouth yesterday after a suspicious package was discovered at Old Trafford.

Tens of thousands of fans were evacuated from Manchester United's 75,600 capacity stadium when the alert was sounded about 20 minutes before the scheduled kick-off at 10pm Singapore time.

The game "has been abandoned, fans are leaving the ground. Please avoid the area if possible," Manchester police said on their Twitter account, AFP reported.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed later that a controlled explosion was carried out, reported the Mirror.

Bomb disposal experts arrived at the stadium swiftly after a phone was discovered attached to a gas pipe in the stadium.

The device was found before the game, which led to the match being abandoned.

The club described the incident as an "operation code red", reported The Guardian.

A source said UK anti-terror officials had been  monitoring the situation.

Bournemouth fan Steve Graham, 28, told UK's The Daily Mail that there was initial confusion in the away stand as supporters were not told the match had been abandoned.

He said: "We've heard nothing official, we've just been told to stay calm and remain in our seats over the tannoy (speaker) about 30 times.

"There's stuff going around the fans, but it's what people have picked up themselves, we've heard rumours of a bomb and that the game is going to be called off."

He said that they first knew something was up when fans started being evacuated at about 2.45pm.

Mr Graham, a part-time referee, said there was no panic during the evacuation and the fans continued singing their songs and stuck together.

He added: "I just want to go home now. The fans have been great though, we haven't been nervous...

"It's a shame having travelled all this way. We're going to have to come all the way back and who knows when that will be?"

Police and sniffer dogs were on the ground after they were told about the package.

At around 3.20pm, the remaining fans from all the stands began to filter out of the ground, with the stadium's PA system informing supporters of the latest information.

Police were asking people to avoid the area if possible as they continued their investigation.

Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera said he and his team-mates were kept inside their changing room while the fans were being evacuated, reported the Daily Star.

He told Spanish outlet Tiempo de Juego: "We're still in the dressing room, seems we'll be the last to leave. There's been nerves and tension."

Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness said he and Thierry Henry were searched by security staff on their way into the stadium for the first time, reported The Sun.

The Scot said: "For the first time today, we were patted down, I can't remember that here.

"Unless they were given a tip-off."

With Manchester United playing Crystal Palace in Saturday's FA Cup final at Wembley, it may be more than a week before the Bournemouth match takes place.

A statement issued by the Premier League said they would "seek to rearrange the fixture as soon as practically possible and will advise fans accordingly".

- Wire services

BPL: SAFETY FIRST, MATCH TO BE REPLAYED

The Barclays Premier League released a statement on Twitter to say that the decision to abandon the Manchester United-Bournemouth match was taken after the police advised of the necessity to deal with a suspect package, reported the Daily Mail.

It said: "When it comes to matters of security, it is obviously right that Man Utd and the Premier League place the safety of supporters and employees foremost.

"The Premier League will seek to rearrange the fixture as soon as practically possible and will advise fans accordingly.

"It is always the last resort to abandon one of our fixtures and while we apologise for the inconvenience caused to fans, we are sure, in the circumstances, they will appreciate the need to do so."

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