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EPL 2020-21: Fans invade Old Trafford to protest against the Glazers, United-Liverpool tie postponed

Manchester United is the most successful football club in England, having won 20 English Premier League titles. United was recently one of the founding members of the controversial European Super League, following which fans have been against Glazers'club ownership.

May 3, 2021, 11:17 AM IST

In what could be said as one of the dark days in English football, the much-awaited clash between fierce rivals Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford was postponed on Sunday evening. The reason for that happened to be a protest by United fans. This was the first time in English Premier League history that a tie had been postponed due to fan protest.

Although a usual protest does not lead to the cancellation of a match, it was nothing typical at all. An hour before the game was scheduled to begin, fans gathered outside Old Trafford with green and gold flares.

With fans currently not being allowed inside the venues due to COVID protocols, some managed to sneak in and run onto the turf, besides throwing flares towards the hospitality box. While police officers cleared them, some of the protesters severely clashed against the officers outside the venue, hurling bottles. Even the barricades were forcefully removed by them, leading to a couple of officers getting injured.

With the COVID protocols set in place breached, the EPL organisers, after discussions with the police, decided to call off the game and postpone it later. "Following the security breach at Old Trafford, the Manchester United v Liverpool game has been postponed. This is a collective decision from the police, both clubs, the Premier League and local authorities. The security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of paramount importance," said EPL 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 rearrangement of the fixture will be communicated in due course," it added.

Meanwhile, United too sent out a release, stating, "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," it appended.

Greater Manchester Police Federation chairman, Stu Berry, has said that it would review "Sunday's operational risk assessment and public order resources" for its officers. "We witnessed appalling scenes - police officers are not punchbags for people protesting for their cause. At the end of their shifts, hard-working police officers should be able to go home to their families in one piece. Not be rushed to hospital," he told BBC Sport.

The prime reasons for the protests are United's latest involvement in the controversial European Super League, of which the club was one of the founding members. Owing to fan protests all across Europe against the founding members, the tournament was scrapped. At the same time, United and the Glazers "apologised unreservedly", but the Manchester United Supporters Trust noted that it had "zero trust in the owners". United supporters have protested against the Glazers in the past as well, ever since they took over the club in 2005.

"When they came in 2005, the club wasn't in any debt; a few years later, you're talking £400m in debt. You look at the stadium; it's a beautiful stadium, but there is rust, it's falling apart and they just don't care at all; there's no communication with the fans. They said they would communicate with the fans, but last week, there was a supporters' community meeting, they didn't go. I think we are doing this in the best possible way," told one of the fans to BBC.

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