Football/Soccer

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho thinking of attack victims ahead of Europa League final

Manchester United's players and staff hold a minute's silence before training yesterday ahead of tonight's Europa League final against Ajax Picture: PA

Jose Mourinho says the "hearts and minds" of everyone at Manchester United are with those affected by the horrific attack that killed 22 people and injured many more.

An explosion rocked the city on Monday evening when a bomb was let off at the end of a concert by pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena.

Greater Manchester Police has confirmed 22 people were killed and 59 injured in an attack that has shocked the world.

In the wake of the incident, Uefa accepted United's formal request to cancel last night's press conference ahead of the Europa League final, while the team held a minute's silence at training before flying to Sweden.

The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for a bombing that United manager Mourinho says dominates their thoughts ahead of facing Ajax in Stockholm.

"We are all very sad about the tragic events last night; we cannot take out of our minds and our hearts the victims and their families," the Portuguese said.

"We have a job to do and we will fly to Sweden to do that job. It is a pity we cannot fly with the happiness that we always have before a big game.

"I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one."

Mourinho led the team on a walk around the Friends Arena pitch upon arriving in Sweden last night.

The squad – along with the suspended Eric Bailly – congregated in the centre circle, while injured Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young stayed on the sidelines as they were on crutches.

There was no sign of injured top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic by the time Mourinho led the group off after five minutes.

It is unclear how the United players and staff have been impacted by the explosion ahead of the Europa League final – a match that not only offers silverware but Champions League qualification.

Many of the squad took to social media to express their sympathy and solidarity after the attack.

United captain Wayne Rooney posted on Twitter: "Devastating news this morning. Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected."

Daley Blind said he "can't believe what happened" and goalkeeper David De Gea expressed "much rage, much pain", with winger Jesse Lingard saying "this beautiful city" will "stand together in this dark hour".

United have confirmed that the players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect this evening, with a minute's silence to be held before the final.

Old Trafford was closed to the public yesterday following the bombing and United said in a statement that "club staff are ready to help the police and other emergency services in any way that may be required at this challenging time for our city".

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward echoed that support in an email to staff confirming the cancellation of tonight's Europa League party at the Victoria Warehouse.

"Our thoughts go out to the victims and families affected," Woodward said.

"These senseless acts are designed to shake the confidence of people and to turn communities on each other.

"Members of our family of fans and our home community have been affected and we will be reaching out to provide the support of the club in what must be an unimaginably difficult time.

"Manchester is a resilient city and I am sure that its people will defy the wishes of those who have perpetrated this awful crime and demonstrate what a magnificent place this is.

"The club provides counselling and support services in times of crisis; please do not be afraid to ask if you have been affected."

Just last month Stockholm was hit by an attack as a hijacked truck was deliberately driven into crowds, killing five people.

Uefa implemented extra security measures after the horrific incident in April, with fans set to go through detailed checks ahead of the match this evening.

A statement from European football's governing body after the Manchester attack read: "There is currently no specific intelligence which might suggest that any of the Uefa Europa League Final activities in Stockholm may be the target of attacks.

"Uefa has been closely working with local authorities and the Swedish FA for many months and the terrorist risk had been taken into account since the very beginning of the project."

Football/Soccer

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