On Thursday, fans were once again outside Manchester United’s stadium protesting the Glazer family ownership with flares and chants.
United’s players arrived at the stadium over seven hours before the start of the game instead of their usual routine of staying at a hotel, choosing instead to have their meal and rest inside the ground.
In the end, Liverpool gained a vital win in its hunt for Champions League football, beating United 4-2 thanks in part to a double from Roberto Firmino.
But United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the disruption to his team’s preparations caused by fan protests was not to blame for his side’s poor performance in the defeat.
“Of course, it disrupted us a little bit so it’s not been ideal but we had to deal with it.”
Making their voice heard
In the wake of the unpopular European Super League (ESL) — a multibillion-dollar competition consisting of 12 of the biggest teams in European football, in which six of England’s top clubs signed up, including Manchester United — United fans’ discontent with the Glazers has intensified.
Although the ESL fell apart less than 48 hours after it was first announced, the lack of fan consultation galvanized many supporters — not just at United — who are intent on wresting back some semblance of control of their clubs.
The six founding Premier League members eventually withdrew from the ESL, beginning with Chelsea and Manchester City, following widespread criticism by fans, the media, politicians and even royalty.
The disconnect between the supporters and United’s US owners led to huge protests — which sometimes turned ugly — outside Old Trafford 10 days ago, with police estimating over 1,000 protesters who invaded the pitch ahead of the match against Liverpool.
Some 200 people also congregated outside The Lowry Hotel in Salford where the United players were staying ahead of the match.
The game was eventually rescheduled to Thursday and the fans once again turned up to voice their opposition to the Glazers.
The United team’s early arrival at the stadium combated any travel issues it might’ve faced, but meant players had to have their pre-match meals in the stadium rather than at a hotel as is commonplace.
An official Liverpool bus was also blocked on a street by protestors’ cars in the Manchester city center. Liverpool players and staff eventually all managed to arrive over an hour before kickoff.
As well as confirming the two arrests, Greater Manchester Police said they were aware of a “small number of people seemingly intent on disrupting the fixture.”
“The safety of all those concerned remains GMP’s main priority. We encourage everyone to remember we are still living under restrictions due to the pandemic and have a collective responsibility to remain safe and protect one another.
“Enforcement remains our last resort, but anyone whose behavior crosses the boundary into a criminal offense should expect to be prosecuted.”
Despite the protests, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said his team were not disrupted by the demonstrations.
“Our ride to the stadium was completely fine, the police did an incredible job. I am not sure if, for us, they were needed, but they were there and so we didn’t recognize any trouble or whatever. We just heard about it, that there was something, but it didn’t disturb us or our preparation or whatever.”
When the game did get underway, the hosts came out of the blocks fastest, with Bruno Fernandes’ deflected effort giving them the lead.
But Liverpool stormed back and, after having a penalty overturned by the video assistant referee, scored three times without reply, the first coming from Diogo Jota before Firmino’s double.
Marcus Rashford ensured a nervy finish was on the cards with his scuffed goal but Mohamed Salah’s breakaway goal in the dying moments wrapped up a vital victory for Liverpool in its hunt for a top four spot in the Premier League and a place in next season’s Champions League.
The win takes Liverpool fifth in the Premier League meaning, if it wins at West Brom on Sunday, it will close to within one and three points respectively of FA Cup finalists Chelsea and Leicester, who still have to play each other.