By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) – Partizan Belgrade fans must be on their best behaviour while supporting their team against Manchester United in their Europa League Group L clash on Thursday, the Serbian side’s coach Savo Milosevic said.
Serbian football has been rife with violence and racism in the last three decades following the former Yugoslavia’s bloody break-up and Partizan have played two games in this season’s Europa League behind closed doors due to crowd trouble.
“I expect sportsmanlike support from our fans and they should be aware just how significant this match is,” former Yugoslavia and Aston Villa striker Milosevic told a news conference on Wednesday.
“It should be a feast for everyone. The impetus the fans provide from the terraces could be a telling factor, it gives the players more energy than you can imagine.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere as we face one of the world’s best clubs.”
The clash against United will be played under tight security as hundreds of visiting fans are expected to make the trip to the cauldron of Partizan stadium in Serbia’s capital.
Partizan top the group with four points from two games, ahead of United on goals scored. Third-placed AZ Alkmaar have two points and bottom team Astana none.
Milosevic, who won the 1996 English League Cup with Villa, acknowledged Partizan faced a tall order against the club Partizan beat 2-1 on aggregate in the 1966 European Cup semi-finals.
“That is a bygone era and going down memory lane doesn’t get you anywhere in football,” he said.
“Manchester United are a top team even if they are having a rough patch and we are likely to face many of the problems our cross-town rivals Red Star encountered in Tuesday night’s 5-0 Champions League drubbing by Tottenham Hotspur.
“It’s true Red Star beat (eventual winners) Liverpool 2-0 at home in last season’s Champions League group stage but that was nothing short of a miracle and they don’t happen very often.
“We have the utmost respect for United but we don’t fear them. We will try to play our best football and leave it all out there on the pitch, that’s all anyone can ask for.”
Partizan lost the 1966 final to Real Madrid 2-1 and Red Star won European football’s most prestigious club competition in 1991.
(Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic, editing by Ed Osmond)