Gary Neville called for a fans’ revolt to reform English football after Manchester United’s potential title-decider against Liverpool was postponed when home supporters stormed Old Trafford to protest against the Glazers’ ownership.
Protesters set off smoke bombs and flares outside the Theatre of Dreams as the demonstration turned violent in clashes with police, while another group tried to prevent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s squad leaving the Lowry Hotel.
Footage has emerged of cars being tipped over in the city, while even the Sky Sports punditry crew were targeted inside the ground. The clash was supposed to kick-off at 4:30pm but after an hour of confusion, the game was called-off.
Gary Neville has backed Manchester United fans after their dramatic protest at Old Trafford
Supporters broke into the ground to protest at how the Glazer brothers are running the club
United fans’ long-running discontent with the Glazers has boiled over after their cynical plot to join the European Super League collapsed, and Neville has called-on supporters to keep fighting back.
‘It’s a warning to the owners of the football clubs. We know some fans came in and were reasonably peaceful,’ the former right-back said on Sky Sports punditry duty.
‘The fans have spoken. It’s not going to go away. Fans don’t trust the owners of Manchester United, they don’t like them, they think the owners should leave.
‘Beyond today, fans across the country need to unite to make sure there is reform in English football
‘We don’t want to hear about disturbances today but fans have had enough. The story today is that the fans have set the spark. Will they stop another game next time?
‘I hope they’ll move towards something more measured, calm and pointed. The ball is in the owners’ court. Two weeks ago, I must say it again, it was a shocker.’
Police were forced to push back to clear the Old Trafford concourse, leaving behind a mess
Supporters were furious at the historic club’s attempt to join the European Super League
Jamie Carragher felt that a small minority of fans had hijacked the protest for their own purposes and diluted the message.
‘I see some other clubs trying to score points (by criticising United fans). We’ve lost a game of football today but you have to accept that.
‘A few idiots might have done things but the main aim of this from MU supporters is unhappiness with their owners. You should be able to demonstrate, but a few idiots ruin it for everyone.’
Neville’s former team-mate Roy Keane said that the size of the protest sent out a message – with the Irishman expecting follow-up demonstrations.
‘It’s a huge statement for the game to be called off. Sometimes you have to put a marker down for people to take notice, hopefully the owners will take this seriously. This is just the start of it, mark my words,’ he claimed.
‘This is the start of it and their plan no doubt is for the United owners to give in and sell the club.’
Graeme Souness felt the dissenting fans had achieved their objectives. ‘If you set out to do something that would be seen by the whole world, you’ve done that,’ he said.
Neville accused Avram (left) and Joel Glazer (right) of trying to create a footballing famine
Before the postponement had been announced, former Red Devils right back launching a renewed attack on the Glazers following the failed attempt to take Manchester United into the ESL.
The debacle has already led to chief executive Ed Woodward announcing that he will step down at the end of 2021 and now the supporters want the Glazers to follow suit.
Neville said he understood their anger and slammed his old club for failing to understand their privileged role within English football: ‘I’ve never thought they were brilliant owners, but I’ve seen there are worse owners in football than the Glazer family. However, I think all football fans should unite today behind what Manchester United fans have done.
‘What they did two years ago was dangerous for English football, we must not forget that. They tried to walk away and create a closed-shop league which would have basically created a famine in this country for every other football club.
Supporters had also gathered outside the Lowry Hotel before police cleared them away
‘Those 15 clubs (who would have made up the European Super League) would have walked away from their leagues and basically destroyed the ethos of the pyramid and relegation in English football. That’s number one, it’s unforgivable what they did as a family two weeks ago.
‘The Glazer family two weeks ago tried to implement something that would have damaged every single community that has football at the heart of it. That’s why they’re dangerous.
‘Perez is dangerous, Agnelli, Laporta… they are dangerous to the concept of equal opportunity and fair play in European football.
‘Let’s not forget what we’re arguing about here. Today there is anger. I hope tomorrow it switches to mobilisation towards reform and regulation behind the fan-led review.
Fans set off flares and smoke bombs outside the Theatre of Dreams before the Liverpool match
A huge crowd turned-up to express their discontent with the owners, overwhelming security
‘When I talked about Manchester United and Liverpool two weeks ago, they should act like the grandfather of English football.
‘Demonstrating compassion, spreading wealth through the family and being fair. They haven’t done. They’ve demonstrated greed and tried to walk away with all the money themselves and left the family struggling below. That is not what you do at this football club or Liverpool Football Club.’
A media camera was smashed by a protestor after fans entered the Theatre of Dreams, while other supporters tried to get down the tunnel.
Although most of the crowd did disperse at around 2.20pm, shortly after entering the stadium, some fans were still there an hour later.
Carragher also backed the eye-catching stance by fans and said the animosity towards the owners of the Red Devils is about far more than planning to join a breakaway league.
‘The feeling of Manchester United and Arsenal fans towards their owners was a lot bigger than the Super League. I think that’s why they’ve protested so much,’ the ex-Liverpool centre back said.
Jamie Carragher said he understood the frustrations of protesting United and Arsenal fans
‘This is not just about the Super League for Manchester United – this goes back 10 or 15 years ago when they were taking money out of the bank and charging season ticket holders if they didn’t want to go to a Carling Cup game, or maybe a Europa League game and just taking money off fans.
‘I totally get the frustration of Manchester United fans, and Arsenal fans, I think they’re in a similar situation with their owners. Every football fan in some way should stand with them.
‘We don’t want to see games called off, no-one wants to see that, but supporters are frustrated with the ownership of their own clubs. What we spoke about with the Super League, and supporters stopping that – we saw the scenes at Chelsea as well – supporters coming together is powerful.
‘Me even as a Liverpool fan, being part of those six clubs that tried to move away, I cannot criticise Manchester United fans for how they’ve gone about things basically.
‘An ownership running their club for the last 15 years has had no thought whatsoever for them. They do spend a lot of money, but I go back to what they did with the season tickets and they state of the club now compared to when they first came in.’