Chaos unfolded at Old Trafford on Sunday as anti-ownership protests by Manchester United fans forced the postponement of Sunday’s Premier League game against Liverpool.
Hundreds of fans stormed the pitch just hours before the scheduled start to protest against the Glazer family ownership and their plans to join the breakaway European Super League (ESL).
As a result, the match on Sunday that was due to start at 4.30pm local time (7.30pm UAE) was postponed due to safety concerns.
United and Liverpool players were unable to travel to the stadium where supporters and police clashed.
Although the crowds were later dispersed, United said the game was postponed “due to safety and security considerations around the protest” after discussions with police, authorities and the league.
“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we completely acknowledge the right to free expression and peaceful protest,” United said in a statement. “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.”
The Premier League, which was yet to announce a new date for the match, expressed concern.
“The security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of paramount importance,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“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 postponement meant Manchester City have to wait to lift the title. If second-placed United had lost the game against Jurgen Klopp's team, league leaders City would have won the Premier League crown.
The Press Association reported that some protesters gained access to the ground via the Munich Tunnel, after pushing down barriers and despite the presence of security guards.
A protest was planned outside the ground at 2pm UK time, with fans arriving at least an hour before.
Many fans already had reservations about the Glazer family ownership and plans for ESL proved to be the tipping point. In a rare public statement, United co-chairman Joel Glazer apologised to fans for the breakaway tournament.
"You made very clear your opposition to the European Super League, and we have listened. We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right," he had said.
"Although the wounds are raw and I understand that it will take time for the scars to heal, I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans and learning from the message you delivered with such conviction."
United fans had also breached security at their club's training ground when ESL proposals were made public for the first time.
The American family has owned the club since a controversial takeover in 2005.
United fans wore green and gold colours to matches early in the Glazers' reign. It was the colours of Newton Heath, the club founded in 1878 that eventually became Manchester United 24 years later, as a sign of protest.
Green and gold scarves and flares were back at Old Trafford on Sunday, while there were a number of banners aimed at the Glazers.
United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has already announced he would be leaving his role by the end of the year amid the fallout from the failed ESL project.