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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 2, 2008

Sir Alex upsets Manchester United fans

Old Trafford is like a 'police state' which leaves supporters paralysed by fear, a spokesman from the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association claimed on Wednesday.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson compared the atmosphere at Tuesday's Premier League win over Birmingham to a funeral, urging fans to back the team more vocally.

Those comments have upset the IMUSA's Colin Hendrie, who accused Ferguson of 'a lack of understanding' of the plight supporters face.

'I think he could benefit from sitting in the ground,' said Hendrie, who believes Old Trafford stewards come down too hard on fans who stand at moments of excitement.

'You can't stand up to make a noise. If you try to stand up, you've got stewards who are ejecting you, they're taking your season ticket away from you.

'It's almost like a police state in a football ground now and if you do stand up, people will take your arm, put it behind the back of your neck and throw you out of the ground.

'Under those circumstances, what atmosphere does he (Ferguson) want?

'The only atmosphere we've got is one where we're a little bit frightened of losing £1,000 for the season ticket we've paid for.'

The noise level in the stadium as United laboured to a 1-0 win over Alex McLeish's strugglers yesterday was non-existent at times, a fact gleefully pointed out by the visiting fans.

Sitting in the directors' box as he completed a two-match touchline ban, the lack of atmosphere was even more noticeable to Ferguson.

So, just over seven years after former captain Roy Keane laid into United's 'prawn sandwich brigade', Ferguson had his say.

'The crowd were dead,' complained the Scot. 'It was like a funeral it was so quiet.'

Hendrie revealed Ferguson's comments had not gone down well with his fellow fans.

'A lot of people are pretty upset, because it shows a lack of understanding about what it's like to be a football fan in 2008,' he said on Sky Sports News.

'Fergie's going back to the days 10 years ago where it was absolutely fantastic, you could stand.

'But you can't do that now and the football authorities need to make up their minds whether they want to have fans sitting neatly in a row not being able to do anything or if they want an atmosphere in the football grounds again.'

Hendrie pointed to the example of United's neighbours Manchester City, where he claims stewards are far more tolerant.

'It's actually not against the law to stand up. It's to do with the terms and conditions on the ticket,' he explained.

'The interpretation of that rule is different at different grounds.

'For example, at City, they've actually got a singing area.

'Because you're allowed to stand in moments of excitement, what they say at City is, 'If you're standing up singing, you're obviously excited, so carry on singing'.

'That doesn't happen at Old Trafford.'

The club have, however, rejected any notion that stewards have been asked to adopt a heavy-handed approach.

In the four games prior to Christmas - against Everton, Derby, Fulham and Sporting Lisbon - it is claimed that just three fans were ejected from Old Trafford in total.

A United spokesman said: 'Any suggestion of an ejection policy for persistent standing is simply not borne out by the facts.'

The club have also denied that the atmosphere at the 'Theatre of Dreams' is being muted by a high proportion of corporate fans - the assumed target of Keane's prawn sandwich jibe.

Of the 76,000 fans who can pack into the stadium, 86%, United claim, are fans paying the normal ticket price.