Extraordinary scenes at Old Trafford caused one of English football’s biggest fixtures to be postponed – but what happened and why?
Manchester United and Liverpool were set to lock horns in a Premier League clash at Old Trafford on May 2, but the game had to be called off.
Extraordinary circumstances led to the abandonment of what is arguably the biggest game in English football, one which usually grips fans of both sides as well as neutrals.
So what exactly happened? Why was the game called off and when will it be played instead? Goal brings you everything you need to know.
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Why was Man Utd vs Liverpool called off?
Protests involving thousands of Manchester United fans led to the cancellation of the game between the Red Devils and rivals Liverpool.
Officials declared that “safety and security considerations” were the reason for the game being postponed.
The fixture was originally scheduled to kick off at 4:30pm BST (11:30am ET) on Sunday May 2, but doubts about the viability of the game grew as protests at Old Trafford, which began around 2pm BST (10am ET), showed little sign of ending.
The protests intensified to the point where some fans managed to gain entry to the ground and subsequently occupied the pitch, with some even attempting to get into the dressing rooms.
As well as Old Trafford, groups of fans also gathered outside the Lowry Hotel in Manchester, preventing the teams and officials from departing for the stadium.
Remarkably, with protests still ongoing and the kick-off time fast approaching, the team sheets were issued. Eventually, however, a decision was made to call the game off.
“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,” a statement from Manchester United read. “Discussions will now take place with the Premier League on a revised date for the fixture.”
What were Man Utd fans protesting about?
Manchester United fans were chiefly protesting against the club owners, the Glazer family, and calling for a change in how the team is run.
The catalyst for the protests was the controversial Super League plans that were announced at the end of April, which the Red Devils were a part of before declaring their intent to withdraw.
In open letter to fans, United chief Joel Glazer said: “You made very clear your opposition to the European Super League, and we have listened. We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right.”
The letter added: “In seeking to create a more stable foundation for the game, we failed to show enough respect for its deep-rooted traditions –promotion, relegation, the pyramid – and for that we are sorry.”
However, banners displayed at the protests unequivocally declared: ‘APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED’. Calls for a 50+1 model to be adopted were also made, while some fans vowed not to stop until there was change.
Reflecting on the disruption, former Manchester United stalwart Gary Neville explained to Sky Sports: “This is a consequence of the Manchester United owners’ actions two weeks ago. There is a general distrust and dislike of the owners, but they weren’t protesting two or three weeks ago.”
A statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) called on the UK government to act and “reclaim the people’s game” from private investors.
“Supporters turned up on the day of a game they could not even attend, to peacefully protest and speak with one clear voice about the change that needs to happen at our club,” the statement said.
“On the back of the indefensible [Super League] 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.”
Fans from some of the Premier League clubs involved in the Super League venture, such as Chelsea and Liverpool, staged large-scale protests directed at their respective club ownership prior to the one held by Manchester United supporters.
When could Man Utd vs Liverpool be played?
It remains unclear when the Manchester United versus Liverpool game could be rescheduled for, but a space will have to be found in the schedule that suits both teams.
There are not many gaps in their respective fixture schedules, but Manchester United’s next scheduled game is against Roma on May 6, while Liverpool’s is against Southampton on May 8.
The weekend of the FA Cup final (May 15/16) could potentially work should they fail to do it sooner – but only if Liverpool’s game against West Brom on May 16 can be moved.
If a space cannot be found in the schedule, the Premier League authorities will have a decision to make regarding a potential forfeit.