Police will today warn fans they will tolerate no troublemakers at next Monday's potential Premier League title decider at the Etihad Stadium and will deny anyone under the influence of alcohol entrance to the game.
The Greater Manchester Police force will have more than 600 officers on patrol on Monday night, an increase on recent derbies, and they expect thousands of Manchester United and Manchester City supporters to descend on the city centre. The GMP will tell publicans that they have to play their own part in preventing disorder or violence on arguably the most significant night in the city's rich football history.
Officers will be visiting all pubs screening the match, in advance, and though they are leaving it up to individual establishments whether they operate on partisan lines or welcome both sets of fans, police will brief them on how to maintain order. An image posted on Twitter yesterday revealed one pub advertising the game with a provocative message for one set of fans – not something the force will welcome.
Drinking in the streets will not be permitted in an exclusion zone from the city centre to the stadium, from Monday afternoon onwards. There will also be extra patrols in the city centre, though since the trouble which marred the Carling Cup semi-final first leg of 2010, at the Etihad, these games have not been scarred by violence – with an average of 15 to 20 arrests per game since then.
The clubs have not seen fit to remind players of their responsibilities in keeping supporters' tensions in check. United have always taken the view that it is for the players to exercise responsibility over the use of Twitter, and City also believe that their players know what conduct is expected of them. After the security success of the Etihad FA Cup semi-final between the sides in January – when United brought three times the 2,600 fans who will attend on Monday – there has not been a need to repeat the joint promotional appearance which Tom Cleverley and Joleon Lescott undertook before that game.
Officers generally find Etihad games are easier to police than Old Trafford, since the stadium is closer to the city centre, creates a tighter area to patrol and affords officers more flexibility. Discussions between City security staff and GMP are understood to have taken place already, as is the routine.
United's FA Cup win over City, which went some way to erasing the ignominy of the 6-1 Premier League defeat at Old Trafford in October, saw Paul Scholes' return from premature retirement andRio Ferdinand has told of his attempts to persuade him to continue next season. "It would be nice if he could play another season," Ferdinand said. "With Scholesy, though, you know it does not make a difference what anybody else says. He's his own man and he'll make his own decision. There are a number of reasons why we've done well since the turn of the year and one of them is Scholes. Would we have been in the same position? It's impossible to say. It's great to have him back. It's not just the quality of his football that impresses me but the way he's adapted physically. He was out of the game for months and yet he's come straight back into top-level football and he's hardly looked out of place."
City's Joe Hart has admitted that the side have always had one eye on this game. "We've always been focused on finishing the season well and we have given ourselves a really good chance," Hart said. "There are only a few games now. We've been putting this one off for a long time and people have been talking about it. But now it's the next game and the one we are excited about. Our title chances are certainly a lot better than they were. We are excited – we feel ready."