Fun not fights as Rostov, United fans come in peace
It was 1-1 on the pitch and all-square off it as dire predictions of bloody battles between Russian and English fans, reprising their violent clashes from Euro 2016, proved unfounded in Rostov on Thursday.
In the week that a top Russian football official -- and member of parliament -- demanded hooliganism be recognised as a sport, with teams of 20 thugs per side, and which saw Manchester United fans told to hide their colours in the Russian city, peace broke out.
"People were very friendly, very helpful. I got on a bus from the airport and people were trying to help me, to tell me where to go. I had a look around the city -- very nice," United fan Tony Alli told AFP ahead of the Europa League clash.
"As of yet, I haven't seen any trouble. Let's hope it stays that way and I'll be happy and everyone else will be happy."
Only around 230 United fans made the 3,000km trip to the Russian city with many discouraged not just by the distance, but also by the cost of attending a tie which will only be settled at Old Trafford next Thursday.
"It's the worst turnout for United because of the turnaround. We needed to get a visa, and it was just too short a time," explained Alli.
"Basically, you had to pay £187 ($198, 215 euros) for a fast-track visa, then the flights were expensive. So, we're at about £500 which is quite expensive really for a football match."
Rostov fan Dmitri Kublov said he was happy to see supporters, however few, of the legendary English side in his home city.
"We are ready to welcome them, to support and greet," he said before kick-off.
"Drink and hang out together, have fun together! We are ready to welcome real fans.
"Those who came to make some trouble, let them make trouble outside the stadium."
The football 'bromance' was in stark contrast to the build-up to the last-16 tie during the week.
United supporters were told not to wear club colours or travel alone while in the Russian city, which will host World Cup matches in 2018.
The advice came after England and Russia supporters were involved in violent clashes during last year's European Championship in France and Russian hooligans saying they would target English fans at the World Cup.
Last weekend, Igor Lebedev, the deputy speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, and a member of the executive board of the RFU wanted to see his country pioneer a new "sport" of hooliganism.
"If visiting fans, for example, begin picking fights they receive an answer -- your challenge is accepted. Let's meet at the stadium at the set time. You can acquaint yourselves with the rules on our site," Lebedev wrote on his party's website.