The incident at Old Trafford triggered angry calls for action, with Tony Lloyd, Manchester’s mayor and police and crime commissioner, branding it “outrageous” and a “fiasco”.
United vice-chairman Ed Woodward said the device had been left in error by a sub-contractor following an exercise to train dog handlers at the stadium, but was recorded as having been removed.
“The contractor had signed the device as having been recovered along with the 13 other devices at the end of the exercise,” Woodward said in a statement.
“That device could not have been detected by sniffer dogs on the routine match-day search of the 100 Club (executive lounge), as it contained no explosives and was used in an exercise training handlers not dogs.”
The fake device, thought to consist of a mobile phone attached to a pipe, was discovered minutes before United and Bournemouth were due to take to the pitch and safely detonated by bomb disposal experts.
United vowed to reimburse the tickets of the 75,000 fans who were evacuated. They will also give them free entry to Tuesday’s rearranged match against the south-coast side. That gesture alone could cost United more than three million pounds.
Woodward said United were working closely with Greater Manchester Police to make sure “robust security measures” would be in place for the rescheduled fixture.
“This fiasco caused massive inconvenience to supporters who had come from far and wide to watch the match, wasted the time of huge numbers of police officers and the army’s bomb squad, and unnecessarily put people in danger, as evacuating tens of thousands of people from a football stadium is not without risk.”
The company that left the device was Security Search Management and Solutions, British Media reported.
Christopher Reid, owner of Security Search Management, told Sky News that he was “devastated” about what had happened. “The mistake is entirely mine,” he said. “I have to take full responsibility.”
About 3,500 Bournemouth fans made a 800-kilometre round trip to Manchester to see their club’s first league game at Old Trafford.
BOU have offered free travel to supporters coming to the rearranged game.