The Old Trafford Football Stadium and the Etihad Stadium, the home grounds of Manchester United and Manchester City football teams, are about four miles adrift of each other. A former United boss had famously called the City team as ‘noisy neighbours’, albeit in a different context. If Sir Alex Ferguson was at the United’s ground here yesterday, he would have realised the ‘noise’ from the ‘neighbours’. The Old Trafford football ground and Old Trafford Cricket Stadium exist at a stone’s throw away from each other, divided by a street. One now wonders what would be the reaction of Sir Alex to the raucous cricket fans of India and Pakistan? They are not only the neighbours geographically and extremely noisy literally. Even on a rainy day. Agenuine fan is unfazed by rain or shine— an aphorism one may have heard myriad times. Manchester and Cricket World Cup established it one more time yesterday. Even as the spectre of rain was looming over the game, the Old Trafford was buzzing, burning and bustling with activity since early in the morning. Ferguson may not have enjoyed the din but there was warmth in the early morning chilly breeze. There were scenes of festivities around the ground, not often seen in this industrial city in the UK. Thousands had gathered outside the stadium by 8 am. Thousands were still outside it by 10.30 am, when the match between India and Pakistan had started. The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) worry was for the security for the crowd, given the volatile nature of the relations and the political situation between the competing rivals. However, the match seemed to be passing off without a major incident (till the time of going to print). There was no increased threat perception for the game, but the ICC said it still was its responsibility that every fan gathered outside the ground was safe. “We had seen a large ticketless crowd outside The Oval during the India-Australia game. We expected a big turnout outside the Old Trafford too,” an ICC official said. Outside the ground it was a carnival-like atmosphere with those supporting India dressed in blue and Pakistani supporters in green cheering for their teams. While a Pakistani journalist was interviewing some fans in green on camera, an Indian supporter barged in and yelled I…N-…D…I…A. That could have sparked off a scuffle, but all parties took it in the right spirit. There was support but no hatred. Inside the stadium, of course, the majority were Indian supporters. As per the ICC data, 66 per cent Indians had bought the tickets for the game but the Indians added up more than that. The data also said Pakistani supporters were 19 per cent and neutral English fans added up to about 13 per cent. But obviously there was more than 19 per cent Pakistanis inside the stadium. The requests for tickets for this game was more than 800,000. Not for nothing did former England Kevin Pietersen, a neutral voice in this case, called it an El-Clasico of cricket. It must be to the credit of the fans that there was no visible acrimony between them. A couple of years ago, an India-Pakistan game had seen a lot of political propaganda with many from the Pakistan side even raising the portraits of Kashmir leaders outside the Edgbaston in Birmingham, a development that was reported in these columns. The ICC had then taken steps to make sure no political flags were taken inside the ground. It was no different yesterday. Only the national flags were allowed inside but nothing more. So much so, the stewards were seen taking away the masks of Narendra Modi from the fans. The message was clear: Only cricket, no politics!