A marquee English Premier League game was postponed on Sunday after hundreds of Manchester United fans, protesting against the club’s US owners, invaded the pitch at its Old Trafford stadium ahead of the match against Liverpool.
“Following the security breach at Old Trafford, the Manchester United vs. Liverpool game has been postponed,” said the Premier League in A statement.
“This is a collective decision from the police, both clubs, the Premier League and local authorities.”
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said over 1,000 protestors had gathered at Old Trafford, while around another 200 people had congregated outside The Lowry Hotel, Salford where the United players were staying ahead of the match.
“Two officers have been injured with one officer being attacked with a bottle and sustaining a significant slash wound to his face, requiring emergency hospital treatment, said a GMP statement.
Many Manchester United supporters are unhappy over the club’s failed attempt to join the European Super League last month. The Glazer family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, runs the club.
The Premier League said the decision to postpone the game was to ensure “the security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford.”
“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,” said the Premier League in its statement.
“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.”
Manchester United issued a statement acknowledging fans’ 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 investigation,” added the United statement.
Flares were let off and bottles thrown at officers said GMP of the protests outside Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel.
“Protestors outside Old Trafford became especially aggressive and antagonistic towards police before a group of about 100 forced entry to the ground with some United staff having to lock themselves in rooms,” added the GMP statement.
The protestors were eventually evicted, but outside the stadium, according to GMP, “hostility grew with bottles and barriers being thrown at officers and horses.”
GMP Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson described the protestors’ behavior – at both Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel – as “reckless and dangerous.”
“The actions of those today required us to take officers from front line policing and call in support from neighbouring forces to prevent the disorder getting worse,” said Jackson.
“At different points, bottles and barriers were thrown, officers assaulted and people scaled the stadium structure creating risk for themselves and officers.
“We have launched an investigation and we will be working closely alongside partners to ensure we establish the full circumstances surrounding today’s events and prosecute those responsible.”
Manchester United – and Liverpool – were two of the 12 clubs that last month announced their intention to breakaway from the current UEFA competition format and create their very own European Super League, before the project quickly unraveled.
“We are disgusted, embarrassed and angry at the owner’s actions in relation to the planning, formation and announcement of the European Super League,” said the Manchester United Supporters Trust at an emergency fans forum meeting on Friday.
“Once again this clearly demonstrates that the club’s owners are only interested in maximising their own profits and do not care about or respect the views of Manchester United fans.”
At that meeting, outgoing Manchester United Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward said the club do not “seek any revival of the Super League plans.”
“I know that you will feel angry and let down by the lack of consultation and by the way the proposal failed to recognise the vital principle of open competition. Proper discussion would have helped us avoid the mistake we made,” added Woodward.
“As Joel [Glazer] said … we failed to give enough weight to the essential principles and traditions of sporting merit which are so vital to football not just in domestic competition but in European competition since the mid-1950s.”
If the game hadn’t been postponed and Manchester United had been beaten by Liverpool then Manchester City would have been confirmed as Premier League champion.
Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.