Harry Maguire is hopeful Manchester United will not have to experience a repeat of the “sickening” racist abuse that marred England’s trip to Bulgaria when they visit Partizan Belgrade on Thursday.
United face Savo Milosevic’s side in the Europa League after the Serbian outfit were forced to play their previous two UEFA home matches behind closed doors following “racist behaviour of supporters” when they hosted Yeni Malatyaspor in the third qualifying round.
The Group L game also follows Serbia’s national team being hit with a two-game stadium ban – one suspended for 12 months – after a similar incident against Portugal in September.
Maguire played in England’s 6-0 win over Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifying earlier this month, which was twice stopped during the first half after visiting players were subjected to racist chants.
Those stoppages formed part of UEFA’s three-step protocol – whereby a match is first paused, then suspended for a period, before ultimately being abandoned on the third instance of racist abuse – but Maguire is confident the match in Belgrade will pass without any major incidents.
“We will trust UEFA to follow their protocol,” he told a media conference. “Sofia was sickening and something I don’t want to be part of again.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 23, 2019
“We are confident tomorrow will be a positive atmosphere. If something does go off, we will follow the three-step protocol.”
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer echoed Maguire’s sentiments and has faith that UEFA will implement their protocol should racist abuse be heard.
“In the aftermath of what happened in Bulgaria, we had a meeting with the boys and we have gone through the protocol,” he said.
“I believe in the good of people and the atmosphere will be fantastic. We trust UEFA and hopefully it will be a celebration of good football.”
Solskjaer also reiterated United’s stance on clamping down on racist incidents involving their own supporters after one was alleged to have engaged in abuse during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
“I’m happy the club have identified whatever you want to call him and it’s something we feel strongly about,” he added. “We will stamp down as much as we can.”
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