Sunday’s Premier League clash between Manchester United and Liverpool was postponed after United fans invaded the Old Trafford pitch during a demonstration against team owners, the Glazer family.
A statement from United confirmed the news, attributing the decision to “security considerations” made following discussions with police, the Premier League and the local council. A revised date for the game has yet to be confirmed.
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The statement added: “Our fans are passionate about Manchester United and we fully recognize the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. However, we regret the disruption to the team and the actions that put other fans, staff and police at risk We thank the police for their support and we will assist them in a later investigation. “
The Premier League also issued a statement that read: “Following the security breach at Old Trafford, the Manchester United v Liverpool game has been postponed.
“This is a collective decision by the police, both clubs, the Premier League and the local authorities.
“The safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of the utmost importance. We understand and respect the strength of the sentiment, but we condemn all acts of violence, criminal harm and violations, especially given the related COVID-19 violations. Fans have many channels, about to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification.
“We sympathize with the police and the stewards who have had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football. The reorganization of the game will be announced in due course.”
Thousands of Manchester United supporters stormed Old Trafford in an anti-glazer demonstration. Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP via Getty Images
The protests began with around 1,000 supporters in front of the Lowry Hotel where the United team was staying. In the meantime, two police vans were parked at the gates of Old Trafford and were used by the team’s coaches from early Sunday morning.
While the protest was planned and largely peaceful, it fell into chaos when fans infiltrated the stadium.
The fans gathered in the forecourt of Old Trafford around noon BST / 8 a.m. ET. An hour later, a large group broke the fence around the stadium and moved the protest towards the Munich tunnel under the Sir Bobby Charlton stand.
A large crowd of fans also gathered off the ground, releasing green and gold flares – the colors of United’s kits when they were founded as Newton Heath.
Police moved in to try to clear the areas outside the stadium and there have been a few isolated cases of bottles and barriers being thrown.
The game was originally scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. CET / 11:30 a.m. CET.
Liverpool issued a statement saying they were “totally happy” with the decision to abandon the game.
Manchester United fans have arrived at Old Trafford Stadium to protest the ownership of the Glazer family.
“We believe that public safety must be the most important factor in making such a decision, with the ability to provide a safe environment for participants, staff and officials being a particular priority,” it said.
“This could clearly not be guaranteed today due to a rapidly escalating situation.”
Greater Manchester Police also released a statement confirming that two officers had been injured and another was in need of emergency hospital treatment after being attacked with a bottle.
“The behavior shown today at both Old Trafford and the Lowry Hotel was ruthless and dangerous,” said Police Chief Russ Jackson
“We understand the passion that many fans have for their team and we fully respect the right to peaceful protest. There were plans to make sure this could be done safely, but it quickly became clear that many in attendance were not Intended to do so peacefully. “
“Today’s actions required us to take officers from the police at the front and request support from neighboring forces to keep the disruption from getting worse. Bottles and barriers were thrown in various places, officers attacked and people scaled the stadium structure, which poses a risk to themselves and officers
“We have opened an investigation and will be working closely with partners to ensure we are fully investigating the circumstances of today’s events and prosecuting those responsible.”
The anti-glazer movement has gained momentum in recent weeks after the club’s failed attempt to become part of a breakaway European Super League (ESL).
United owner Joel Glazer, who was named vice chairman of the European Super League two weeks ago, apologized in an open letter to fans after they withdrew from the project.
Days later, a group of fans demonstrated at United’s training ground, and last week the support group MUST write to Vice Chairman Ed Woodward, who announced after the Super League retired that he was leaving his role in the United League at the end of the year.
Speaking at a fan forum on Friday, Woodward said the club had no plans to revive the ESL proposal.
The club was bought by the American Glazer family in 2005 for £ 790 million ($ 1.1 billion).
Backers never accepted the Glaser due to their leveraged takeover in 2005 that plunged United into debt (net debt was £ 301.7m in the most recent quarterly figures), and as The Guardian reported in October 2018, her Possessions resulted in more than £ 1 billion being deducted from the club in interest expenses.
Although it has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2012, the glaziers retain the majority. The Glazer family also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Information from Reuters and ESPN correspondent Mark Ogden has been included in this report.