Thousands of angry Manchester United fans gathered at Old Trafford with about 200 invading the pitch to protest the club's owners in the wake of the now defunct Super League.
Fans broke into the stadium, setting off colorful flares while on the pitch, hours before United's scheduled kickoff with Liverpool. If Manchester United loses, the Premier League title will go to Manchester City.
Because of the chaos at the stadium, the Premier League delayed kickoff for the match while players were kept at their hotels until it was safe to arrive at the stadium. Manchester United and the Premier League opted to postpone the match at around 12:45 p.m. ET, more than an hour after it was scheduled to begin.
Manchester United postpones match
Manchester United, which is one of the leagues boycotting social media over the weekend to fight back against online abuse, released a statement to outlets:
“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.”
The Premier League released its own statement, writing in part:
"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 sympathize 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 fans break into stadium
Protests were planned outside the match gates as they had been last week with fans angry at big clubs' plans for a Super League. United was one of the six English clubs to pull out of the breakaway league within 72 hours following the announcement that they had agreed to begin it.
It was prompted largely due to fan protests that have continued since that April 18 announcement. More than 1,000 fans gathered at Old Trafford last Saturday to protest and thousands more were expected on Sunday. In Manchester's case, they are still protesting the club's owners, including co-owner Joel Glazer of the Glazer family, and held signs reading "greedy" and "selfish." Glazer was named the European Super League vice-chairman before it folded.
About 200 of those fans on Sunday broke security and got into the stadium, taking flares to the pitch and reportedly removing a corner flag to parade outside, via the Guardian. They are believed to have arrived by the Munich Tunnel after pushing down barriers, despite stiff security protocols around the area.
The break-in occurred about two hours before the scheduled kickoff. The clubs remained at their hotels and press were asked to leave the stadium, Jamie Jackson reported for The Guardian. They did not reach the dressing rooms, so COVID-19 protocol was not broken.
Glazer apologized to fans in the Super League aftermath, but the apology was rejected by fans. They have continued to demonstrate in the weeks since the announcement.
The Glazer family purchased Manchester United in 2005 for $1.1 billion. They also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Many fans view American owners as stealing European soccer, as seen by the formation of the Super League in the first place.
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