Angry fans were trying to sabotage the auction of mementoes handed out as a goodwill gesture by Manchester United for Sunday's tribute to those killed in the Munich air crash, reports The Times.
United executives came up with the generous idea of placing a commemorative scarf on each seat before the derby match at Old Trafford against Manchester City, with 73,000 in red and white for United supporters and another 3,000 in blue and white for Manchester City fans.
Supporters from both sides of the city turned Old Trafford into a sea of colour as they raised their scarves during the tribute before the match. Fears that the memorial would be disrupted by City fans proved unfounded and the minute's silence was observed "impeccably", according to Ken Ramsden, the Manchester United club secretary.
Unknown to United officials, unrest was already stirring in the packed stands. Some fans claim that their scarves were stolen before they got to their seats, which meant that they missed out on what will be a treasured memento for many. Their disappointment turned to anger as word spread that adverts for the memorial scarves had started to appear on eBay, the auction website, within hours of the final whistle.
Supporters' groups were up in arms, calling on fans to boycott the auctions. Albert Scanlon, a survivor of the Munich disaster, said: "You don't go to these things to make money."
Sandy Busby, the son of Sir Matt Busby, United's former manager, added: "Sunday's game was an emotional event that the club and the fans handled magnificently. It is just sad that people are trying to cash in on mementoes of a special day and the tragedy it marked. Unfortunately, I don't think you can stop this kind of thing."
Some United fans decided that they could stop it by taking matters into their own hands, placing false bids for some of the merchandise.
However, there were clear signs that the intervention by United supporters had had an effect and more than 70 items for sale on eBay had been reduced to a handful last night as some sellers decided to pull out rather than risk the ire of fellow supporters.
Ironically, there was a single memorial scarf in the blue and white of Manchester City on sale on eBay among the plethora of United scarves listed, while claims by some supporters' groups that the scarves were put on sale only by football tourists with no emotional ties to United were somewhat undermined by the fact that most of the offers were listed by fans living in Manchester and the North West — proof, perhaps, that some so-called real supporters may know the price of United merchandise but not its true value.