British police impressed with the efforts of their Russian counterparts to stamp out football hooliganism

Manchester United’s trip to Rostov in the Europa League appears to be seen as a first attempt at engineering cordial relations between Russian and British football fans ahead of the World Cup

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Senior British police have found their Russian counterparts determined to ensure that hooligans from the country do not mar the 2018 World Cup, with the local constabulary in Rostov attempting to bring together a group of rival supporters in an unusual act of diplomacy before Manchester United’s Europa League tie in Rostov on Thursday night. 

The degree of determination to prevent fighting, which the British officers discovered on a trip to Moscow last week, suggested an awareness at the highest level how damaging to the nation’s reputation the return of scenes witnessed at last summer’s European Championships would be.

United’s Rostov trip appears to be seen as a first attempt at engineering cordial relations.

Though only 400 United fans have travelled, limiting the scope for trouble, the attempt by local officers’ to introduce fans to each other goes against the impression that many British supporters may have of officers in the country.

Rostov fans are also preparing to present commemorative blankets to every United supporter who enters the club’s Olimp-2 stadium for tonight’s game, which kicks off at 6pm, UK-time.

United fans who enter the Olimp-2 will be presented with a scarf (Getty)

Though the European Championships were marred by clashes between English and Russian fans, senior British officers found their counterparts from the country to be extremely well prepared in France, with excellent intelligence on the ground.

A documentary aired by the BBC last month, entitled "Russia's Hooligan Army", showed some Russian fans predicting violence between supporters at the 2018 World Cup in Russia — with British fans targeted.

But Assistant Chief Constable Mark Roberts has returned from Moscow optimistic about the potential for joint working with the host country.

“There’s clearly a determination to ensure that the tournament passes off without conflict and incidents,” Mr Roberts said. “We will look to do our part in contributing to that.”