In 2005, shortly after the Glazer family finalized their purchase of Manchester United, around 300 supporters took part in a march to protest against the club’s new owners.
These protests, for a while, continued, with supporters showing their displeasure at the signs and wearing the club’s original green and gold colors on match days.
Sixteen years later, however, and those protests have been largely forgotten, at least outside United circles.
On Sunday, however, the 2,000 or so fans who showed up at Old Trafford made sure their voices were heard, with scenes that ensued ensuring few will forget the events of May 2 and the postponement of the United clash. with former rival Liverpool.
A fortnight after the announcement of the ill-fated Super League, supporters flocked to the Theater of Dreams, eager to let the Glazers know what they thought about the role they played in proposing the competition to ‘breakaway.
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“Apologies are not being accepted,” read a number of the banners, referring to Joel Glazer’s open letter to fans following United’s decision to withdraw from the new tournament.
“We want the Glazers to come out,” filled the air, with the Super League reigniting a 16-year-old feud some of which here on Sunday would not have been alive when it started. The message was loud and clear.
“This is a warning to the owners of the football club that ultimately they (the fans) will not accept what they have been doing for the past two weeks,” Gary Neville said on Sky Sports, after seeing the pitch. sacred on which he was so successful, invaded by the protesting masses.
Whether this warning will be heeded remains to be seen, but the glaziers certainly cannot ignore the events of that fateful afternoon.
Participants had made a point of stressing beforehand that the planned demonstration would be peaceful, and on the whole it was.
Parents have come with their kids to demand change, rather than acting unsteadily towards the club they love.
At 2 p.m. BST (9 a.m. ET) – about 2.5 hours before kickoff against Jurgen Klopp’s team – things have changed.
Two shots of fireworks could be heard in the forecourt of Old Trafford, which was a signal for fans to start heading towards the stadium.
A crowd of 1,000 were able to pass through the barriers protecting the entrances and make their way inside, forcing staff members to lock themselves into rooms for protection when the old stadium was locked.
As supporters stormed the pitch, there was no doubt what they really wanted: a change of hands at the top of their football club.
While the majority limited their protests to singing and parading banners, one group could be seen playing with the match ball while others paraded corner flags around the ground. A flare was launched at the Sky Sports TV scene, but the issues were limited to a minority before they were finally sent back outside.
However, the protests were not limited to the field.
In Manchester city center, members of the United team could be seen watching from their bedroom windows inside the Lowry Hotel as fans began to congregate outside the usual pre-match basis for the team.
“We’ll decide when you play,” was the chant as the coaches who were to take Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players to the match were barricaded by supporters.
Fans are keen to remind the game’s powerful brokers that they remain the loudest, and at times, the most powerful voice. Money keeps talking, but the power of protest can be just as strong.
Across town, Liverpool players and coaches were tasked with doing their own work in their own hotel as the drama unfolded elsewhere. A number chose to watch TV coverage, while others retreated to their bedrooms in an effort to prepare for a game they believed would still take place.
An hour before kick-off, that was apparently a sentiment shared by most.
Despite concerns about non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations, Goal understanding that some fans were able to gain access to United’s dressing room, the rosters have been announced and reporters have received Zoom links for the post virtual press conferences. -match.
While it was as close to business as usual as the afternoon, police helicopters overhead could be heard and referee Michael Oliver was forced to tour the stadium to ensure that the stands were completely clear of the demonstrators.
The club’s security guards had been prepared for an afternoon of facing the crowds for the first time in over a year, but – perhaps naively – didn’t expect things to escalate like this they did it.
After the stadium was cleaned up, a small number of supporters could be seen clashing with police around the entrance to the Munich tunnel, with those involved to be punished by Greater Manchester Police.
The majority, however, acted peacefully, and it is perhaps their actions that will bear the heaviest consequences.
“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we fully recognize the right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest,” read a statement from the club following the decision to postpone the match to 5.35 p.m., just over one hour after the initial kick-off. time.
“However, we regret the disruption of the team and the actions which put other supporters, staff and the police at risk.”
Those at the Lowry celebrated loudly the announcement of the game’s cancellation, their victory for fan power and the protest to make headlines around the world.
Their struggle, however, is not over.
“It’s not going to go away,” Neville warned the Glazers. “I don’t think they (the fans) trust the owners of this club, they don’t like them, they think they should go.
“Beyond today, it should be about reform and regulation and making sure they can’t do it anymore (form a separatist competition). Protest is the right of every person in this country, and we must keep it.
“However, beyond today, it’s about making sure fans across the country come together to make sure there is reform in English football.
“If anything, today must be a precursor to this, otherwise today will be a waste of time.”
It should have been a day when tensions between Manchester United and Liverpool supporters were at an all-time high, and yet opposing fanbases find themselves rallying behind a common cause.
Considering the history of the rivalry, this should perhaps be the most concerning of all for those who own the biggest clubs in the world.
This too is only the beginning. The Glazers and others are set for an uncomfortable end to the season and beyond.
Additional reporting by Neil Jones.