The game has been delayed indefinitely but shall be expected to be played out before Premier League’s final matchday on May 23.
Few hours before the scheduled kick-off, thousands of Manchester United fans gathered outside Old Trafford, their wrath focused on the club’s infamous owners, the Glazer family. A series of them broke into the club’s Carrington training ground a little over ten days ago.
A few hundred United fans also gathered outside The Lowry Hotel, traditionally the place the United team stays at before home matches, blocking access to the team bus. As a result, the United squad failed to leave for the stadium on time, prompting the Liverpool team – who were staying somewhere else – to stay back until they got further update from the home side.
Back at Old Trafford, few of the protesters managed to break into the stadium. Most of them made it onto the pitch, where they continued their vociferous demonstration. Few made their way into the top tiers of the seating areas with reports suggesting a break-in into the dressing rooms as well. Although the authorities managed to get them off the pitch within minutes, sufficient damage was done to render the game delayed.
The growing tensions soon precipitated into violence and vandalism. United fans clashed with the police both at Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel, leaving few from both sides in need of immediate medical attention. The fans that made it onto the pitch managed to break some broadcast cameras and even stole a few match balls and corner flags. Glass was broken at the points they broke into the stadium from. Some flares and beer cans were also thrown towards the ad-hoc Sky Sports studio built in the stands inside the stadium.
Michael Oliver, the designated referee for the game, arrived at the stadium belatedly to assess the situation. With a lot of matchday equipment either damaged or stolen, the COVID bubble breached, and security and safety comprised, a postponement was considered best in everyone’s interest.
While there has been no confirmation regarding when the match will take place, United and Liverpool will be mandated to play it out before May 23, when all ten matches of Premier League’s final matchday kick-off simultaneously.
Also Read – THE GLAZERS AND MANCHESTER UNITED – AN OVERVIEW
The Premier League announced the postponement of the match with the following statement:
“Following the security breach at Old Trafford, the Manchester United vs. Liverpool game has been postponed.
“This is a collective decision from the police, both clubs, the Premier League and local authorities.
“The security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of paramount importance. We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated COVID-19 breaches. Fans have many channels by which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification.
“We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football.
“The rearrangement of the fixture will be communicated in due course.”
In light of the situation, Manchester United released the following statement:
“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.”
Liverpool’s statement read as follows:
“Liverpool Football Club was in full agreement with the decision to postpone today’s fixture as a result of ongoing events at Old Trafford and the surrounding area.
“It is our position that public safety must be the number one factor in any such decision, with the ability to provide a secure environment for the participants, staff and officials being a particular priority.
“It was clearly not possible for this to be guaranteed today due to a situation which escalated rapidly.
“We will continue to have dialogue with Manchester United, the Premier League and the local authorities to find a suitable date to reschedule.
“As soon as we have this information we will update our supporters accordingly.”
Also Read – The Super League : where did it all go wrong?
Why did it happen?
Football fans across the world seem to have realised the power of their voices after the recent Super League disaster. Many have begun capitalising on their recent victory to rally against issues they feel have needed resolutions for long.
In the UK, while many fan-led forums have initiated talks with the government to consider revamping the ownership model of the British football clubs, many football governing bodies have recently joined forces to enact a temporary social media blackout, termed the #StopOnlineAbuse campaign, to make the policymakers of the widely used social media platforms to take notice and pledge to take hard actions against any and all cases of online discriminatory abuse.
Before the events in Manchester on Sunday, fans of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Liverpool – three clubs other than Manchester United who announced their participation in the Super League – also made a show of dissent towards their respective owners before their teams’ latest home matches. For Manchester United fans, protesting the Glazers is anything but new. The American family has been subject to vehement denouncement ever since their acquisition of the club sixteen years ago. For too long fans have felt helpless in front of the owners they couldn’t stop taking over the club in the first place, but the Super League episode has brought with itself a new wave of realisation, that the present time is as good as any to rally even harder and bring about change.
The events of Sunday have been in the making for a while now, finally coming to a head after years of wailing gone unheard, with an understanding of needing to deign to go a bit too far to make oneself heard.
Will the Glazers listen?
There is no doubt something like this will reach the Glazers’ ears; whether they decide to do anything about it is a whole other matter. For sixteen years, they have gleefully turned the other cheek no what the United fans threw at them. At the moment, they’d be more worried about Adidas demanding a response for a drop in United’s shirt sales than how the events on Sunday make them look.
There is something to be considered, though. There is no doubt in my mind that the idea of a guaranteed revenue-generating closed shop league model is something the Glazers would have envisaged since day one. Now that they have realised such a thing is near impossible to happen in European football, that revenues will always be subjected to a drop, having to deal with perennially dissatisfied fans might start to feel a bit too troublesome, even for their liking.
Of course, as they have just broken even on their initial investment in Manchester United, the Glazers won’t leave easily. United fans know all too well that £4bn will serve as the ballpark amount to get them talking, but until someone fronts up with that, it is hard to imagine something else that will get the Glazers out of Manchester United.
As a Manchester United fan, I always fully get behind any movement that seeks to demand the Glazers’ egress from the club. Having said that, the violence that ensued on Sunday cannot be condoned, no matter how understandable the reasons behind it were. I have seen the images of fans charging into police officers outside Old Trafford. I have seen the images of Jamie Carragher talking to a security official with a patched-up scar running across his left cheek. Freedom of expression is a crucial fundamental right, but as we continue to lead the renaissance of this revolution, we need to remember that when the eyes of the world fall to these events, they focus on the why more than the how. We mustn’t stop asking ourselves – to what end and at what cost?
High-end protests are only a beginning in the immediate post-Super League environment. Fans now know that with the right voices leading the charge they can bring about the change they want to see. The fans that marched outside The Emirates, Anfield and Old Trafford had belief in their hearts. We need to hold on to that belief, take lessons from these events, and vow to engage in relentless yet constructive dialogue to make sure we win back the game that was always supposed to be ours.