Jose Mourinho said the victims of a deadly suicide bomb attack in Manchester were in the “minds and hearts” of his squad as United prepare for Wednesday’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.
The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack that killed at least 22 people, including children, and injured dozens at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena on Monday.
“We’re all very sad about the tragic events last night, we can’t take out of our minds & hearts the victims & their families,” Manchester United manager Mourinho said in comments on the club’s Twitter feed.
“We have a job to do & will fly to Sweden to do that job. It’s a pity we cannot fly with the happiness we always have before a big game.”
Mourinho, who joined United last year, added: “I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one.”
The Portuguese led his players in a minute’s silence on United’s training pitches and the club said they were cancelling Tuesday’s pre-match press conference in Stockholm.
“Due to the tragic events in Manchester last night and the effect that this has had on everyone here at our club and within our city, we have decided to cancel this evening’s pre-match press conference in Stockholm,” United said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the victims at this terribly difficult time.”
Meanwhile David Beckham, who made his name as a global football star at United, expressed his condolences via an Instagram message, saying: “Heartbreaking news from Manchester. As a father & a human what has happened truly saddens me. My thoughts are with all of those that have been affected by this tragedy.”
– ‘Beyond evil’ –
Gary Lineker, another former England international and now a television presenter, summed up a mood of widespread revulsion when he tweeted: “To target children at a concert is beyond comprehension. Beyond lunacy. Beyond evil. Heart goes out to all those who’ve lost loved ones.”
A help centre was opened at City’s Etihad Stadium, which is close to the Manchester Arena, for those affected by the blast.
“It’s with great sadness we hear of the terrible events at the Arena,” said a City statement. “Our hearts go out to all affected and to our city’s emergency services.”
Current players from both clubs also sent Twitter messages of support, with City captain Vincent Kompany saying: “I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. It’s a sad day for the great city of Manchester. #Unity’.”
United’s Jesse Lindgard wrote: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by last nights attack on this beautiful city.”
– ‘Support and solidarity’ –
City manager Pep Guardiola tweeted: “Shocked. Can’t believe what happened last night. My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. #Ilovemanchester.”
Dutch club Ajax sent their own message of support, saying: “From Amsterdam with love to Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and the loved ones of those affected.”
Spanish football giants Real Madrid and Barcelona also expressed their sympathy.
“From Barcelona, all our support and solidarity for the victims and relatives of the attack in Manchester,” said a message from the Catalan club.
Their arch-rivals said: “Real Madrid C.F. expresses its deepest dismay at the attack committed in Manchester and wants to convey its solidarity with the victims and their families and friends. At the same time, it wishes the prompt recovery of the injured.”
There were plenty of messages from other sports too, with one from England women’s cricketer Danielle Wyatt especially poignant as she had been in the audience on Monday.
Wyatt, who was unhurt, tweeted: “Thank you for all messages – I’m safe. Was at the concert enjoying myself like many others – thoughts with victims & families. #WeStandTogether.”