Manchester United have expressed their shock at the terrorist attack in Manchester and held a minute’s silence before their last training session before flying to Wednesday’s Europa League final in Stockholm.
Greater Manchester Police have confirmed children are among the 22 killed and 59 wounded by a bomb that exploded after a concert by American pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on Monday night.
United have also cancelled a scheduled press conference in Stockholm on Tuesday evening and Old Trafford is closed to the public.
In a statement, the club said: “Due to the tragic events in Manchester last night, and the effect that this has had on everyone here at the club and within our city, we have decided to cancel this evening’s pre-match press conference.
“We are sure that, in the circumstances, you will all understand our position on this matter.”
An earlier statement said everyone at United was “deeply shocked by last night’s terrible events” and the club’s “thoughts and prayers” went out to everyone affected, including children from their Manchester United Foundation partner schools who were attending the concert.
Messages of condolence, defiance and support have been coming in ever since news broke of the appalling incident, with many governing bodies saying they will take increased security measures at events.
In a statement released to Press Assocation Sport, a spokesperson for the Football Association said: “Fan safety is of paramount importance and we have robust security measures in place at Wembley Stadium.
“In collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and the local authorities there will be an enhanced security operation for all upcoming events. All supporters are encouraged to arrive for events at Wembley Stadium as early as possible for security checks and to avoid any delays in entering the stadium.”
Wembley is set to host the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea on Saturday, the League Two play-off final between Blackpool and Exeter on Sunday and the Championship play-off final between Huddersfield and Reading on Monday.
An English Football League spokesman said: “The thoughts and prayers of everyone associated with the EFL and its 72 clubs are with all those affected by last night’s terrible events in Manchester.
“The EFL is fully aware of the security issues that football and other sporting events currently face and whilst there have been no specific threats in this country, our security advisor will be liaising with Wembley Stadium, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and the Metropolitan Police to ensure the arrangements in place provide a safe and secure environment for all supporters attending this weekend’s play-off matches.
“The safety of fans remains our highest priority. The EFL takes security issues extremely seriously and we would urge all supporters planning to be at Wembley Stadium to be vigilant of their surroundings at all times, stay alert and not be alarmed.”
Stockholm ‘not a terrorist target’
UEFA has said there is “no specific intelligence” which suggests Wednesday’s Europa League final between Ajax and United is a terrorist target but assured fans that it has been working closely with the local authorities “for many months” on a security plan.
Stockholm itself has been under heightened alert since five died in a terrorist attack in April, shortly before Borussia Dortmund’s team bus was attacked with a roadside bomb in Dortmund before the Champions League quarter-final against Monaco.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “I am deeply saddened by the horrible terrorist attack in Manchester last night.
“It shocks me that so many innocent people lost their lives and I would like to send my condolences to the families of those affected.”
With Manchester known around the world for its football teams – comedian James Corden referenced them in a moving tribute to the city on US television overnight – it is hardly surprising United’s players have come under increased focus before Wednesday’s match.
Prior to Tuesday’s training session, several current players, including Daley Blind, Jesse Lingard and captain Wayne Rooney posted messages of shock and sympathy on their Twitter accounts, as have players from Manchester City.
A club statement from City said: “The thoughts and prayers of our ownership, board and everyone at Manchester City are with the people of Manchester and all those affected following the horrifying events of last night’s Manchester Arena attack.
“We have offered our full support throughout the night and this morning to the leaders of the city of Manchester itself and to the emergency services who are doing so much to support our city in these most challenging of circumstances.”
Greater Manchester Police have set up a help centre for anyone needing assistance at Gate 11 of City’s Etihad Stadium.
There is no news yet on how United might pay tribute to the victims on Wednesday but England wore black armbands during their 1-1 draw with Guinea at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea on Tuesday morning.