The recent backlash against the (since ditched) plans for a European Super League appears to have opened up old wounds at Old Trafford.
Over the weekend, fans vented their frustrations outside Manchester United‘s ground on Sir Matt Busby Way.
The ensuing protest and disorder culminated in the home side’s match against Liverpool being called off.
Six police officers were injured as they dealt with the mob outside the stadium – with some protestors even breaching security and breaking into the Theatre of Dreams.
A statement from Manchester United said: “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.”
The events have reignited the fiery debate surrounding the ownership structures of major football clubs like Manchester United, and whether football fans are being exploited by investors only interested in the club’s bottom line.
These fans – demonstrating with placards outside the ground – quoted Man United icon Sir Bobby Charlton, saying “football is nothing without fans” and that those who are loyal to the club deserve a voice.
For some of those demonstrating, it wasn’t the first time they’ve tried to have their voice heard, however.
This fan acknowledged that the European Super League has brought about a tipping point, but tensions have been simmering since 2005 when the Glazer family first took over at Man U.
These fans agreed – and they blame the Glazer family for destroying their club.
They feel it’s run more like a business than how a football club ought to be run, and simply want to see it returned to its winning ways.
It wasn’t all peaceful protesting, however.
According to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) by late afternoon more than 1,000 protestors had amassed outside Old Trafford.
In a statement the force said: “Officers continued to closely monitor the situation, engaging with those present but as the groups grew in size; it became clear that many of those present were not intending to exercise their right to peaceful protest.
“Flares were let off and bottles thrown at officers.”
The force added: “Protestors 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.”
#UPDATE| An investigation is on-going into the violent disorder surrounding protests at Old Trafford yesterday which saw a number of officers injured
— Greater Manchester Police (@gmpolice) May 3, 2021
GMP assistant chief constable, Russ Jackson commented: “The behaviour displayed today by those at both Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel was reckless and dangerous.
“We understand the passion many supporters have for their team and we fully respect the right for peaceful protest.
“Plans were in place to ensure this could happen safely, but it soon became clear that many present had no intention of doing so peacefully.”
“Officers were just trying to do their job”
Assistant chief constable Nick Bailey added: “The behaviour shown at this protest was absolutely atrocious.
“Officers were just trying to do their job and facilitate a peaceful protest, however a number of those present became hostile and aggressive towards officers and forced entry to the football grounds, making it very clear that this protest was not peaceful and ruining it for the majority of protesters who had not intended for the protest to become violent.
“Our officers tried to engage with protestors, but were met with violence and aggression.”
He added: “No officer should have to come to work and face these conditions.”
In all, six police officers are understood to have been injured after attending the protest.
One officer suffered a fractured eye socket, requiring medical treatment, and another sustained a wound to his face, after bottles and cans were thrown. A third officer is said to have been dragged and kicked during the fracas.
Anyone with information is being asked to get in touch with police by calling 0161 856 7573 quoting incident number 955 of 02/05/21.
Reports can also be made anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.