The world was stunned on Sunday, May 2, when the fans of Manchester United decided to invade Old Trafford ahead of the Premier League game between the club and Liverpool Football Club. The irate fans decided to go that far to tell the owners of the club, the Glazers family, to step down.
The match which could have decided the winner of this season’s Premier League title was scheduled to kick-off at 4:30 pm local time. But before 1 pm, Manchester United’s fans had started arriving at Old Trafford even though the match was planned to be played behind closed doors.
Most of the fans first gathered at the trinity statue, outside the stadium while others gathered at the Lowry Hotel where Manchester United’s players camped ahead of the match.
As time went by, the number of protesting Manchester United fans grew around the stadium premises. They were seen shooting firecrackers while some of them were making their way into the stadium.
They succeeded in breaching security protocol at the stadium and invaded the stands and the pitch which was set for the match. The police effort to stop them proved abortive and resulted in injuries to some security operatives on duty.
After some of the fans had encroached the stadium, security forces carried out a sweep operation and succeeded in scaring the fans away. But it was too late, the pitch was already damaged.
Even though the Premier League attempted to continue with the game by releasing the team list for both teams one hour before kick-off time, the tension that the protest had already caused and the damage on the pitch forced the match to be postponed indefinitely.
Official reaction from Manchester United
While announcing the postponement of the Premier League game, Manchester United said in a statement that the match had to be postponed due to safety and security concerns around the match venue.
While acknowledging the right of the fans to protest and express themselves, Manchester United said the club regretted that the action of the fans placed others in danger.
The statement read: “Following discussion between the Police, The Premier League, Trafford Council, and the clubs, our match against Liverpool has been postponed due to safety and security considerations around the protest today. Discussions will now take place with the Premier League on a revised date for the fixture.
“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we completely acknowledge the right to free expression and peaceful protest.
“However, we regret the disruption to the team and actions which put other fans, staff, and the police in danger. We thank the police for their support and will assist them in any subsequent investigations.”
While a statement from Greater Manchester police read: “By late afternoon around 200 protestors had gathered outside the Lowry and over 1,000 at Old Trafford,” the police statement read.
“Officers continued to closely monitor the situation, engaging with those present but as the groups grew in size; it became clear that many of those present were not intending to exercise their right to peaceful protest. Flares were let off and bottles thrown at officers.
“Protestors outside Old Trafford became especially aggressive and antagonistic towards police before a group of about 100 forced entry to the ground with some United staff having to lock themselves in rooms.
“Those in the stadium were evicted by officers but outside on the forecourt hostility grew with bottles and barriers being thrown at officers and horses.”
What do Manchester United’s fans want?
Since it was confirmed on April 18, 2021, that Manchester United are among the founding members of the failed breakaway league, European Super League, the fans have been unhappy with the leadership of the club.
The decision of the Glazers family to join the breakaway league reignited the displeasure of the fans against the owners of the club. Since 2005 when the Glazers family became the major shareholders and subsequent owners of Manchester United, the club’s fans have been unhappy.
United’s fans believe that the takeover was done fraudulently because most of the money the Glazers family used to buy the club was said to be loaned and allegedly paid off using the club’s asset.
Besides that, the fans of the club believed that the Glazers family took away over a billion pounds from the club which has not been accounted for. And the owners have made the club one of the clubs in Europe with the biggest amount of debt.
Just a reminder for those who want to learn why Manchester United supporters feel the way we do – about vandalism inside Old Trafford… these past 16 years. pic.twitter.com/n2LnPI2S9a— Barney @Red News (@barneyrednews) May 2, 2021
Hence, United’s fans want the Glazers family to step down while the fans should be allowed to buy back the club by permitting fans to buy the club’s shares in such a way that no one would own the majority of the club’s shares.
A statement issued by Manchester United Supporters Trust after the invasion of Old Trafford read: “Over that period, the owners have taken £1bn out of the club and we have witnessed decay and decline both on the field and off it.
“While the invasion of the stadium isn’t something we expected, and it is rumored a gate was opened for fans, but even if that is not the case we believe the vast majority of Manchester United staff are sympathetic with the views of the fans.
“Supporters turned up on the day of a game they could not even attend, to peacefully protest and speak with one clear voice about the change that needs to happen at our club.
“On the back of the indefensible ESL proposals, and an “apology” from the Glazers which we do not accept, we need to give fans a meaningful share in the ownership of United and a meaningful voice in how it is run.
“The Government now needs to act. That has to mean a process that results in fans having the opportunity to buy shares in their club and more to the point no single private shareholder holding majority ownership of our football clubs which allows them to abuse that ownership.
“The Government needs to reflect the views of ordinary people who see that now is the time to reclaim the people’s game.”
As at the time of publishing this report, the Premier League was yet to announce the new date for the postponed Manchester United vs Liverpool fixture.