January’s Carabao Cup semi-final clash between rivals Manchester United and Manchester City could be marred by fan unrest as a result of ticketing issues.
The first leg of the tie is set to take place at Old Trafford on 7 January, before returning to meet at the Etihad Stadium 22 days later, and both teams have been working to try and ensure fans are kept apart for both games.
Following suggestions from Greater Manchester Police, both clubs have agreed to restrict the number of away tickets sold at each game to 3,000, but The Mirror have found that plenty of other tickets can still be bought from numerous outlets endorsed by both City and United.
There are seemingly no checks in place to ensure that away fans cannot buy tickets in the home stands, meaning there is a real risk that rival fans could clash during both games.
Many supporters from both sides have come together to blast the system, with City, United and the police all attracting criticism for their failures to ensure safety and involve official fan groups in discussions.
“I have no doubts that there will be trouble – especially at the Etihad,” said general secretary of City’s official supporters’ club Kevin Parker.
“Of course, the blame for any problems must always be attached to people who are unable to behave themselves. But I am sorry to say that the decision to limit tickets sold to away fans to just 3,000 should be seen as being a contributory factor.
“Surely it would be better to have all away fans sat together in a segregated area of the stadium where they can be properly policed rather than run the risk of having some of them in with home supporters?”
Ian Stirling, vice-chairman of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust added that he was incredibly concerned about the risk of violence during the second leg as emotions could still be high from the first match.
Given the lack of organisation of the ticketing system, many fans have claimed that the decision has actually been made for financial reasons, with both clubs set to welcome more home fans and earn even more money in hospitality lounges and bar areas.