Bomb scares, fan protests and lightning - Manchester United games that have been postponed

With United's Premier League game at Brentford called off due to a Covid outbreak, we pick out other Red Devils' matches that had to be rearranged

Manchester United’s Premier League game at Brentford has been postponed because several players and members of United’s first team staff tested positive for covid. Disruptions have become more common in the pandemic era, but United games have been postponed for a number of reasons in the last 30 years, some more bizarre than others.

Leeds (a) January 1992

The Red Army were poised to move across the Pennines towards Leeds. Coaches were full of fans in Manchester and the huge ticket allocation of 7,000 seats meant it would be raucous. Manchester United were playing rivals Leeds away three times in two weeks — in the league, the League Cup and the FA Cup.

The pair were the best two teams in England and both going for a first league title in decades, with Leeds’ Eric Cantona a star. The first game on December 29 finished 1-1 in the league. On January 8, Manchester United won 3-1 in the League Cup. On January 13, fans readied themselves for the third game when the news came through that it was postponed because of the icy weather.

The coach companies said the roads were fine and were prepared to drive, the fans had no need to travel anywhere. Manchester United won the rescheduled game 1-0 on January 15. Leeds United won the league title.

Bournemouth (h) May 2016

With fans already inside the stadium before a Premier League game, the match against Bournemouth was called off a after a dummy bomb used in a security exercise by a private firm was found in a security check of the toilets. A controlled explosion was carried out on the device, while Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said that United “need to apologise very, very seriously” to supporters of both clubs.

United refunded all tickets and allowed ticket holders from both clubs to watch Tuesday's rearranged game for free, costing the club around £3 million. Bournemouth offered free coach travel to the match for fans with a valid ticket. United won the rearranged game 3-1.

Chelsea (a) December 2010

Amid freezing temperatures, the game between Chelsea and United was postponed on 18th December 2010. Nearby Arsenal postponed their game after a huge deluge of snow four hours before the game, yet Arsenal’s match was on the Saturday and Chelsea against United on the Sunday.

The decision to postpone the game 27 hours before the match, taken by the police and the council, annoyed fans since Chelsea pitch was fine, the tube was working and the roads around Stamford Bridge were in normal use.

United defender Rio Ferdinand wrote on Twitter: “Did any1 see the Ipswich game yesterday? Pitch covered in snow … so how was that game played and ours (premier league) is postponed? 'It's our country's fault — we can't deal with snow. How did we not prepare ourselves though? It's not like it crept up on us, we knew it was coming.”

Blackpool (a) December 2010

Blackpool’s single season in the Premier League was a notable one, but their biggest game was postponed because of a frozen pitch. Referee Peter Walton, after consulting with groundsmen and club officials, made the decision because the affected areas of the pitch were not expected to thaw in time. Blackpool had employed pitch covers and hot-air blowers to try to keep the match on. The game was rearranged for January 25, 2011 and Blackpool led 2-0 at half-time before United surged back to win 3-2 on their way to a 19th league title.

Manchester City (a) January 2010

As Manchester City began to rise, so their team became a bigger challenge to United. In 2010, City reached the last four of a cup for the first time since 1981 but the League Cup semi-final first leg was called off because of bad weather amid snow around Manchester. To avoid confusion on the day of the game, the match was called off over 24 hours before kick-off.

United lost the rearranged game 1-2, but won an epic second leg 3-1, with Wayne Rooney scoring the winning goal after 92 minutes. United then beat Aston Villa in the final.

Supporters protest against Manchester United's owners, outside English Premier League club Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on May 2, 2021, ahead of their English Premier League fixture against Liverpool. Manchester United were one of six Premier League teams to sign up to the breakaway European Super League tournament. But just 48 hours later the Super League collapsed as United and the rest of the English clubs pulled out.
 / AFP / Oli SCARFF

Liverpool (h) April 2021

Thousands of Manchester United fans, furious at the club’s decision to join a proposed European Super League, protested against the Glazer family’s ownership of the club outside Old Trafford and also the team hotel in Salford. Fans chanted, waved protest flags and set off flares. Some fans also entered Old Trafford and ran on to the pitch.

The decision was made to postpone the game — the first time a Premier league game had been called off because of fan protests. Liverpool won the rearranged game 4-2.

Olympiakos (a) 12th September 2001

It wasn’t without controversy that Uefa went ahead with Champions League games on September 11, 2011 following the terrorist atrocities in the United States, but the games the following evening were postponed. United and their travelling fans were already in Athens for a game against Olympiakos. Officials got a call to say “the game is off, we’re leaving in half an hour”.

Karl Evans, one of the officials, said; “We had a three coach escort back to the airport. I’ve never seen a police escort like it as we screeched through Athens and were ushered past security. It was the quietest flight I’d ever been on. People were scared and there was a lot of uncertainty. There were a lot of frightened people.”

The game was rescheduled for a month later and United won 2-0 in front of 71,528, with goals from David Beckham and Andy Cole.

Urawa Red Diamonds (h) August 2004

Rain has been known in Manchester but not heavy enough in July to cause a game to be cancelled. That’s what happened when Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds came for a once in a lifetime trip to Old Trafford. Electrical storms forced the earlier Boca Juniors v PSV Eindhoven match to be abandoned 10 minutes before the end.

With more storms forecast, referee Andy D'Urso cancelled felt it was unsafe for the game to start, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson in agreement. United travelled to Japan the following summer and played Urawa, winning 2-0 with goals from Wayne Rooney.

Updated: December 14th 2021, 2:40 PM