West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan has apologised to Manchester United for the attack on their team bus and pledged to hand life bans to those responsible.
Tuesday’s enthralling 3-2 comeback win was a fitting send-off to the Boleyn Ground after 112 years, although the emotional farewell was overshadowed somewhat by ugly scenes outside the ground.
Kick-off was delayed by 45 minutes after United’s coach arrived late to the ground, with bottles and other missiles flung at the team bus on its approach to the stadium.
Sullivan had initially blamed the Red Devils for the delay to kick-off, with the Hammers co-chairman saying “if you check the coach there won’t be any damage to it”.
Those comments were contrary to the images of smashed windows and led Sullivan to release a statement on Wednesday in which he reiterated West Ham’s vow to hand down life bans to the culprits.
“If we were to have scripted how our final game at the Boleyn would have played out, it wouldn’t have been much different to last night’s match,” the joint-chairman said.
“The West Ham family then all celebrated our legends and former players together in what was a truly fitting ceremony to say goodbye to our home of 112 years.
“Sadly, the actions of very small minority of people outside the ground prior to kick-off risks overshadowing those celebrations.
“I want to be clear – their behaviour was completely unacceptable and does not represent our club or our values.
“When I was asked about the incident prior to yesterday’s game, I was unaware of the damage that had occurred to the Manchester United team bus.
“I want to apologise to Manchester United for that damage and assure them that we will be doing all we can to track down those responsible and ban them for life.
“This morning I have already tasked my senior team to work with the police to identify them as their behaviour belongs in the past and not in a future that promises so much for our great club.
“I truly hope that in due course we will look back on what happened in the stadium rather than what happened outside and remember our farewell to the Boleyn for all the right reasons.”
The Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday that four police officers had been injured during the trouble, but no arrests have been made over criminal damage to the coach.
There were also issues inside Upton Park as bottles were thrown at United goalkeeper David de Gea during the match, while another fan invaded the pitch to confront the Spaniard.
Three men were arrested during the game, including a 20 year old on suspicion of affray and a 47 year old and 18 year old for pitch incursion.
Officers from the Met’s Central Football Unit are scouring CCTV footage and have appealed for witnesses.
The Football Association released a statement saying it would launch its own investigation into the unrest, including the incidents during the match.
“The FA strongly condemns the unsavoury incidents this evening involving both the Manchester United team coach outside West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground and objects thrown from a section of the home support during the game,” a statement read.
“We will work closely with both clubs and the Metropolitan Police to fully investigate these matters.”
The FA has contacted both clubs for their observations and liaised with police as part of the ongoing investigations.
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic intimated after the match that it was a lack of policing which had led to the pre-match incident, while United counterpart Louis van Gaal was keen not to use the disruption as an excuse for their 3-2 defeat.
“First of all you cannot prove that (it had an effect),” he said of the loss that leaves them facing an uphill challenge in the battle for Champions League qualification.
“We live in this world, we know that, I know it is not the first time it happens. Okay, I have a long experience in football and there are players who don’t have the experience.
“It will have an influence but I don’t think we have to look for excuses because we chased the match in the second half and 20 minutes before full-time we are ahead so I don’t think you have to look for that excuse.”