by Tom Athron ’21
Published May 3rd, 2021
While many looked forward to Manchester United’s matchup against major rival Liverpool FC on May 2nd, there was a different sort of action taking place on the same pitch just hours before the game was scheduled to start.
On Sunday, a gathering of Manchester United fans organized a protest at Old Trafford, the club’s historic stadium, to protest the club’s ownership under the American Glazer family.
While the protests began outside the stadium, it soon escalated as a subset of fans broke into the stadium itself, gaining access via an entrance around the back of the stadium’s famous Stretford End.
Fans stormed the pitch, flares and banners on full display, and chanted in full force. Flares were launched into the stands while protesters clashed with Greater Manchester Police, injuring two officers.
With it looking increasingly unlikely the match would go ahead as planned, the match was delayed, and then officially called off. It was the first time in Premier League history that a match was postponed due to fan protests.
Manchester United themselves released a statement about the event, confirming reports. “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,” the statement read.
While a protest against the Glazers was expected before the match with Liverpool, Manchester United’s most historic rival, the fact that the fans gained access to the stadium itself came as a major shock to police and club staff.
However, it does mark the third protest of Glazer ownership in recent days, including another protest at Old Trafford last week, as well as fans storming the club’s Carrington training ground the previous Thursday. These protests come off the back of fan backlash over United’s inclusion in the planned European Super League project.
However, fans of the club have been disapproving of the Glazer family ever since their 2005 takeover. Many fans accuse the Glazer family of putting the club in severe financial debt and refusing to put money into the club, instead relying on the club to make a profit by itself and taking a cut of that to line their pockets.
Many former United players came out in support of the protests, with former players Gary Neville and Roy Keane speaking to Sky Sports as the protests were occurring.
“I think it’s been building for a number of years now, that frustration, and they’ve come to the end and thought ‘enough is enough,'” Keane said. He added that specific offenses include “disappointment in communication, stuff going on in the backroom, tickets, whatever it might be.”
However, many have condemned the protestors who stormed Old Trafford for endangering the club staff and causing violence. “We understand the frustrations, but the violence by a small minority of fans at Old Trafford yesterday was unacceptable,” said Nigel Huddleston, the British Minister for Tourism and Sport.
Others continue to criticize the violent minority of fans for delaying a crucial Premier League match. Had Liverpool gone on to win, Manchester City (another of United’s rivals) would have been confirmed as champions. The fixture now has to be slotted into the already packed final month of the season, with both clubs needing to play an additional four matches in the next 3 weeks, in addition to Manchester United’s European fixtures.
Many also aimed criticism at the club for being so unprepared for a protest that was known about days in advance.
As such, many have called for the club to be penalized, either with point deductions or an automatic forfeit to Liverpool.