Manchester United v Liverpool postponed as violence mars anti-Glazer demonstration. Meanwhile, Man City march on
MANCHESTER United's Premier League clash against Liverpool was called off after fans broke into Old Trafford in protest against the Glazer family, with police launching an investigation after an officer was left needing emergency hospital treatment.
Around 100 supporters broke into the stadium and invaded the pitch during the demonstration, forcing some United staff to lock themselves in rooms.
Outside the ground, bottles and barriers were thrown at police officers and horses. Two officers were injured, with one "attacked with a bottle and sustaining a significant slash wound to his face, requiring emergency hospital treatment", Greater Manchester Police said.
GMP assistant chief constable Russ Jackson said it was clear many demonstrators had no intention of protesting peacefully as he condemned their "reckless and dangerous" behaviour.
The Red Devils were among 12 clubs that last month signed up for the breakaway European Super League, which collapsed within 48 hours due to huge, unrelenting pressure.
Those plans brought anger against the already despised Glazer family to a new level, with fans congregating at both Old Trafford and the Lowry, the team hotel in the city centre, to demand change ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool.
Police said that by late afternoon around 200 protesters had gathered outside the Lowry and over 1,000 at the stadium.
GMP said in a statement: "Protesters 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.
"Those in the stadium were evicted by officers, but outside on the forecourt hostility grew, with bottles and barriers being thrown at officers and horses. 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."
Picture by Barrington Coombs/PA Wire.
There was an initial unspecified delay to the scheduled 1630 kick-off before confirmation came through from United at 1735 that the match had been postponed "due to safety and security considerations around the protest".
A club statement read: "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 said it understood the fans' "strength of feeling", but condemned "all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches".
It added: "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."
Liverpool, another founding member of the Super League, said they were in "full agreement" with the postponement.
That postponement also denied Manchester City the chance to be crowned champions on Sunday. Defeat for United would have sealed the title for City.
Fans congregated on the Old Trafford forecourt an hour before the protest got under way at 1400, while another group headed to the Lowry.
The hundreds outside the ground had swelled considerably in number by the time the protest started, with two firecrackers let off as protesters began to march towards the Munich Tunnel with green and yellow smoke filling the air.
Red fences put in front of the East Stand did not last long as the handful of stewards were swiftly overcome and barriers toppled.
Footage soon emerged of hundreds of fans breaking into the stadium and on to the pitch, with corner flags held aloft and one supporter seen throwing a tripod from the pitchside interview zone.
The match later called-off.
(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
A number of the protesters left the ground around 1430, exiting the stadium complex by jumping down to the nearby canal paths or running out through the main gates.
Another group is understood to have got into the stadium shortly after, with a small batch of protesters seen leaving around 1530.
Assistant chief constable Jackson said: "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. 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."
Stu Berry, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, added: "We witnessed appalling scenes this afternoon - 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."
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said on Twitter: "It is important to make clear that the majority of supporters made their protest peacefully today. However, there is no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others.
"This could be an important moment to change football for the better. We should all condemn violence of any kind and keep the focus on the behaviour of those at the top of the game."
Manchester United Supporters Trust wants the Government to act to prevent single private shareholders holding majority ownerships in football clubs.
It said in a statement: "On the back of the indefensible ESL proposals, and an 'apology' from the Glazers which we do not accept, we need to give fans a meaningful share in the ownership of United and a meaningful voice in how it is run.
"The Government now needs to act. That has to mean a process which results in fans having the opportunity to buy shares in their club and more to the point no single private shareholder holding a majority ownership of our football clubs which allows them to abuse that ownership."
Manchester United fans protest outside the Lowry Hotel where team was staying during a protest against the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, before their Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, Sunday, May 2, 2021. Manchester United supporters stormed into the stadium and onto the pitch ahead of Sunday's game against Liverpool as fans gathered outside Old Trafford to protest against the ownership.
The match later called-off.
(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
The match later called-off.
(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
MAN CITY MARCH ON - 5 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE THIS WEEKEND
Manchester City's march towards the Premier League title continued as they won 2-0 at Crystal Palace.
Pep Guardiola's team are within touching distance of being crowned champions for the third time in four years after moving 13 points clear of rivals Manchester United, who have five matches remaining after fans protests saw their game against Liverpool postponed.
At the other end of the table, another defeat for Fulham left them on the brink of relegation.
Here, we look at five things we learned from this weekend's top-flight action.
City on the brink
Sergio Aguero provided a reminder of his goalscoring brilliance with the opening goal City's 2-0 win at Selhurst Park to put the Premier League leaders on the verge of another title. After a frustrating first half, it was City's record goalscorer who broke the deadlock with a superb finish and Ferran Torres wrapped up the points soon after with a fine curling effort for the club's 25th league victory of the season.
Guardiola's side would have been confirmed as champions on Sunday had second-placed United lost at home to Liverpool. But after that match failed to go ahead due to fans protests in and around Old Trafford, City can ensure they will finish top of the table once again at the Etihad Stadium against Chelsea next Saturday.
United fans want change
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane claimed Sunday's protests against the Glazer family were "just the start of it from United fans" as he urged the club's owners to "sit up and take note". The clash with Liverpool had to be postponed on safety grounds after supporters broke into Old Trafford and invaded the pitch.
Long-standing anger with the Glazers has increased in intensity since it
emerged United were one of the driving forces behind the breakaway European Super League, which collapsed within 48 hours due to huge, unrelenting pressure.
"The United fans have had enough and they're doing it because they love the club," Keane said on Sky Sports. "It's not just as a result of what's happened the last two weeks with the Super League...it's been building for a number of years. They've come to the end and feel enough is enough.
"It's a huge statement for the game to be called off. Some people won't agree with it, but sometimes you have to put a marker down for people to take notice. This will go out all over the world and hopefully the owners of Manchester United will sit up and take note. These fans are deadly serious and this is just the start of it from United fans - I can guarantee you."
Meanwhile, former United right-back Gary Neville said the Glazers should do "the honourable thing" and sell up.
Havertz finding his feet for Chelsea
Germany forward Kai Havertz finally looked the full £70million part for Chelsea, scoring both goals in the 2-0 victory over west London neighbours Fulham. The 21-year-old has struggled to find his niche during his first season at Stamford Bridge but he hit top form against the Cottagers.
Havertz's natural languid style had jarred amid his protracted recovery from Covid-19 and staccato search for form. German manager Thomas Tuchel has elevated Havertz above all those previous tribulations however, and the 13-cap forward carried a regal air throughout this landmark performance.
Havertz's movement off the ball, ability in possession - and his majestic finishing - had the German star in his ultimate pomp as Chelsea swatted aside Scott Parker's game but limited Fulham team to boost the Blues in their quest for Champions League qualification.
Fulham's failings keeping Magpies safe
Scott Parker's team slipped nearer the relegation trap door with a fifth defeat in a winless run of six matches. The 17-game run between December and March which brought 10 draws and three wins and provided the Cottagers with real hope that they might pull off a great escape is nothing but a distant memory now after their recent form looks to have extinguished that optimism.
Fulham are nine points adrift of safety with four games left to play and even though Newcastle are not exactly pulling up any trees themselves, the Magpies look like they will be safe due to Fulham's inability to win and apply any pressure. The potential all-or-nothing clash on the final day of the season between Fulham and Newcastle looks increasingly like there will be nothing riding on the game.
Spurs still in the race for the top four
Gareth Bale scored a stunning hat-trick as Tottenham kept themselves in the Champions League qualification race with a 4-0 win over Sheffield United. Bale claimed his first Spurs treble since 2012 with a trio of brilliant finishes to move his side into fifth, five points off Chelsea with four games left to play. Son Heung-min also scored a fine goal as Ryan Mason's side ran riot against a Blades side whose relegation fate has already been sealed.
Bale was alarmingly under-used by former boss Jose Mourinho, even when he had regained peak condition, and playing with freedom in a front four with Harry Kane, Son and Dele Alli, Spurs were a constant threat and a far cry from the pragmatic style that dogged Portuguese's era. It remains to be seen if it may have come too late to gatecrash the top four this season, but playing like this makes them a strong bet to finish in a Europa League spot.