The images taken from both outside and inside Old Trafford last Sunday will stick long in the memory for many, certainly for Manchester United fans.
A scene of over 1,000 fans with banners, chanting as loud as they could in front of a backdrop of green and yellow fog – the colours that have come to represent the United fans’ movement to try and displace the club’s Glazer ownership.
There has been a history of disapproval and dislike amongst United fans towards the Glazers ever since the American family became the club’s majority owners and there were protests when they took over in 2005.
The movement picked up again in 2010, when United enjoyed what many would call their last dominant run in football. And now, after the proposal of the European Super League, which United were set to be a part of before its failure, the movement has been refuelled.
Ben Parsons, a writer at United site Stretty News, attended and witnessed the protest. He described it as ”well-planned” with people congregating around The United Trinity statue at 1pm, an hour before the protest was due to begin. Some protestors described the atmosphere as “positive” and even “relaxed.”
Those who were there say that in the first hour, fans were chanting and lighting flares. The chants included “we want Glazers out” and “get out of our club.” Some were chanting “we decide when you can play.” Those who chanted will have felt vindicated when the match was eventually postponed.
Things changed at around 2pm. As more fans arrived, the protest shifted towards the Munich Tunnel, where the team buses usually arrive.
Parsons says that fans took advantage of “porous security” which was “bypassed with ease” as fans got closer to the stadium itself.
He said: “This was a well-planned protest and fans started gathering at the ground about an hour before the scheduled meet up time. Thousands gathered around the Holy Trinity statue singing ‘we want Glazers out’ and ‘get out of our club’ etc.
“Then, when more United fans arrived, porous security was bypassed with ease and hundreds made their way towards the Munich tunnel and the chants continued. There were green and yellow smoke bombs filling the air and people for the most part just wanted to get their message across loud and clear.
“United fans were singing ‘we decide when you can play’ and they stuck to their word.”
It didn’t take long until some protestors managed to get into the ground, at around 2:15pm. One protestor who wished to remain anonymous, who will be referred to as Source A, said he was inside the ground for roughly 10-15 minutes. Some stayed longer, making their way up to the executive boxes.
Outside, the protests continued. One fan, who wished to be identified simply as Henry, said at one point, the fans still inside the stadium appeared from a window. This was met with cheers from those underneath.
At 4pm, more police arrived as the force started to mobilise. By this point, the game had been delayed and was in jeopardy of being called off. Another source who wished to remain anonymous, Source B, said police pushed them back from the Munich Tunnel, with fans responding by throwing objects.
Police then surrounded some fans from both sides on the small bridge going over the railway line next to the stadium. Source B said he believed the police were unaware that they had surrounded the protestors from both sides. He also said police were hitting some people, before the protestors were eventually allowed to leave via Chester Road. The match was officially postponed roughly an hour later.
The events and images of Sunday afternoon were seen throughout the country and indeed around the world. United fans had forced the postponement of one of Britain’s biggest games of football and gained the attention of millions.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust described what happened on Sunday as “the culmination of sixteen years” in which the Glazers have “driven us into debt and decline.”
The trust says that fans feel “more sidelined and ignored” than ever before. They have laid out a four point plan to the Glazers. The four points are as follows:
- Willingly and openly engage and promote the government initiated fan-led review of football and use this as an opportunity to rebalance the current ownership structure in the favour of supporters
- Immediately appoint independent directors to the board whose sole purpose is to protect the interest of the club as a football club, not its shareholders
- Work with the Manchester United Supporters Trust and supporters more broadly to put in place a share scheme that is accessible to all and that has shares with the same voting rights as those held by the Glazer family. Should the appetite be there amongst fans then you should welcome, and offer no opposition to, the Glazer Family shareholding being reduced to a minority or indeed being bought out altogether.
- Commit to full consultation with season ticket holders on any significant changes to the future of our club, including the competitions we play in
The sentiment amongst many fans on social media on Sunday night was that they had succeeded, whatever the aims might have been at the start of the day, and that this protest would not be a one-off.
Manchester United fans have shown that they are frustrated and that they have no intentions of going away quietly. If anything, this may just be getting started.
There is a good chance that the events of Sunday may be seen again as United fans continue to voice their displeasure and try to force the Glazer family out of their club.
Main image courtesy of Ben Parsons, Stretty News, with thanks.