Manchester United's Premier League game at home to Liverpool has been postponed after fans invaded the pitch at Old Trafford in the hours leading up to the match on Sunday during a protest. The match had been scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. ET (16:30 p.m. BST). The Premier League will confirm another date for the fixture "in due course." Dozens of Manchester United fans made it onto the pitch at Old Trafford as part of a protest against club owners, the Glazer family.
Images on social media showed individuals hanging off the crossbar and setting off flares on the pitch after thousands of supporters had congregated outside Old Trafford to make clear their displeasure with the Glazers, who were one of the key drivers behind the Super League proposals that collapsed last month.
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"Following discussions 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," Manchester United said in a statement. "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."
Protestors did not leave the pitch until around an hour before the originally scheduled kickoff in a match where only a win for United would have stopped their rivals Manchester City from claiming the Premier League title. It's a significant derby with Liverpool also needing a win to keep alive their hopes of Champions League qualification.
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Both teams had not left their hotels for the game at the time that the game was postponed. Supporters had also congregated at the Lowry Hotel, where United players gather ahead of home matches at Old Trafford. Pictures from the venue showed the bus waiting to collect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad and surrounded by police officers.
In a statement the Premier League said they had made "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," the Premier League said. "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."
Liverpool also issued a statement, saying they were in "full support" of postponing the game.
"It is our position that public safety must be the number one factor in any such decision, with the ability to provide a secure environment for the participants, staff and officials being a particular priority," Liverpool said. "It was clearly not possible for this to be guaranteed today due to a situation which escalated rapidly."
Finding a date on which to schedule this game could be complex for the Premier League with United due to play midweek games every week between now and the penultimate week of the season on May 15, with matches expected to be rearranged to allow supporters into grounds for the final two rounds of fixtures. There is a precedence for English teams to play on Monday night before a Europa League fixture on Thursday -- Arsenal did so in late October 2019 -- but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have to travel to Rome for the second leg of a semifinal in which they hold a 6-2 advantage.
This is the latest in a string of protests by football supporters since the announcement of a breakaway Super League a fortnight ago, a proposal by six Premier League clubs that collapsed within 48 hours amid universal condemnation in England. Chelsea fan fury turned to jubilation when news of their withdrawal from the competition broke ahead of a home game against Brighton and Hove Albion whilst Arsenal's home game against Everton saw around 2,000 supporters gather outside the Emirates Stadium to call for owner Stan Kroenke to sell the club. This is the first game to be postponed due to fan protest since the Super League proposal.
United have already seen executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward leave the club amid the collapse of the Super League but supporters are demanding that the Glazers, an American family who bought the club in 2005, sell up. Many supporters at Old Trafford bore green and gold scarves reflecting Newton Heath FC, the forerunner of Manchester United and a popular image around which disillusioned supporters have gathered in recent years.