MOSCOW, March 11. /TASS/. Fans of the Manchester United Football Club give exclusively positive comments on the trip to Russia for the game against Rostov FC(1:1). Many of them had expected Russian football hooligans would attack them, but - on the contrary:
"United fans who travelled the long distance for the Round of 16 first-leg encounter were grateful for a notable show of respect from the home fans," MU’s official site reads, "after being greeted with inscribed blankets at the entrance to the visitors' section at the Olimp-2 stadium, as part of an initiative called "Gentlefan".
On the game day, a round-the-clock English center for fans’ support worked in Rostov-on-Don. In case of any problem or conflict, a fan regardless of citizenship could apply for a legal consultation.
"Treated like stars in Rostov"
MU’s fan Matt Putland, who made "the long journey across Europe via Instanbul and Krasnodar using a combination of planes, trains and cars" called the trip unforgettable.
"As soon as the draw was made there were mixed feelings about a trip like Rostov - concerns about getting there, concern from a footballing perspective and knowing they are difficult opponents and, after various stories in the media, concerns about safety. There is, of course, also a sense of excitement at heading somewhere new to see the Reds play," he told ManUtd.com.
In reality, there was nothing to worry about. ""Everywhere we went, from bars to restaurants, we'd be greeted by people saying "welcome". Then, as we arrived at the stadium, we were met by a welcoming committee who handed us blankets to help with the cold," he said.
"Inside the stadium itself, at half-time, the Rostov fans came towards the gates that separated the two sets of supporters. Rather than the anticipated hostile reception, they treated us like rock stars, imploring us to head their way for photos and to shake hands. It is something I've never seen anywhere in the world. All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had on a European away trip," he said in conclusion.
Another fan, visiting Rostov-on-Don, Jeremy Levy, was also excited about the trip.
"I certainly didn't see any trouble and as the Rostov fans were leaving the ground and the United fans were being held in, there was a mutual applause to each other which was a nice touch. However, the best post-match moment happened when Jose Mourinho came out of the tunnel, about 20 minutes after the final whistle, to applaud the travelling support," he said.
Manchester United will provide similarly warm welcome to Rostov
Fears of the English fans are clear. Till now, they had been under impression from the scenes in Marseilles - since then the UK media would not leave the topic of Russian football hooligans. Quite "timely" was also the much spoken about film by BBC about Russian fans, which, among other stories, gave detailed information about a group which supported exactly the Rostov team.
Even the British media had to change the mode after the warm reception in Rostov-on-Don. The welcoming atmosphere in the city and the Gentlefan action changed the titles from "violation festival" type to "charm attack."
"I think everything was magnificent. People have been nice to us since we landed, in the game they supported their team like it should be done. Our supporters behaved properly and, on the pitch, it was an example - the players fought really hard for every ball but in a positive way. Hopefully the Rostov fans who go to Old Trafford next week have great conditions now to be welcomed and for everything to be an example," United’s manager Jose Mourinho said after the game.
The return leg takes place at Old Trafford next Thursday, March 16.