Thursday 08, March 2012
Spanish football fans invade Manchester ahead for crucial cup tie
THOUSANDS of Athletic Bilbao fans have travelled to Manchester to support their team in the first leg of their Europa League clash with Manchester United.
An estimated 8,000 Spanish football fans will be descending upon the city today.
Interest in the match from the away supporters has been so high that a further 2,000 tickets were made available to the Bilbao fans after the initial run of away tickets sold out.
The Spanish fans believe playing at Old Trafford to be a great honour and have flocked to the ground to witness their team play at the Theatre of Dreams.
Julen from Arrigorriaga, just outside of Bilbao said: “It is a dream to play at Old Trafford.
"You see it on television and now Athletic are here to play Manchester United. I am looking forward to the match, I think it will be 1-0 with a goal from Llorente and Nani.”
The excitement started building up at Old Trafford hours before kick-off.
Manchester United supporter Paul Ellis, from Whalley Range, said: “I think it’s great that so many Spanish supporters have made the journey, it’s really cool. They’re all interacting with everyone, I think it’s great!
"I think United will win, easily."
Greater Manchester Police said they were not expecting a repeat of the clashes between United and Ajax fans last month.
Superintendent Simon Retford said: “It’s supposed to be, by all accounts, a good match tonight, we’ve got a heck of a lot of people from Bilbao.
"Apparently in Bilbao it’s been seen as a really popular event.
"All the information we’ve been getting is that it’s going to be a good-natured evening.”
Manchester Airport drafted in extra staff to gear up for one of its busiest days of the year.
As the Spanish fans landed, around 3,000 Manchester City fans boarded planes to Portugal as their team take on Sporting Lisbon.
By Matthew Francey
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