United fans are desperate for their billionaire owners to sell up after years of steady decline
United’s pre-match preparations have been altered in anticipation of further protests
An urgent order went out for reinforcements and more riot police rushed to the front line. ‘Show of strength,’ shouted the commanding officer. ‘Draw batons.’
A mob of several hundred protesters had massed just yards away, having left the plaza in front of Old Trafford where trouble erupted 11 days earlier and where steel barricades have since been erected to keep them out.
Tensions threatened to boil over at Old Trafford as Man United fans gathered in protest again
Anti-Glazer protestors congregated to voice their grumblings over the Glazer ownership
United bolstered police and security presence as a result of the chaos earlier this month
One of the dummy Liverpool coaches was delayed after having the air released from its tyres
But, once again, this wasn’t a normal match day. The United players had arrived up to seven hours before kick-off, anticipating more problems. Meanwhile the Liverpool team were involved in an elaborate game of hide and seek with demonstrators around their hotel in the city centre.
As expected, those gathered at Old Trafford met with a show of force from Greater Manchester Police and Controlled Group Solutions, who provide the security at United, far greater than when they forced this fixture to be postponed first time around.
Then, the police appeared to be caught out by how quickly a peaceful protest against United’s owners by more than a thousand fans had turned nasty, and been powerless to prevent some of them breaking into the ground. There was no chance of that happening again.
The front of the stadium was heavily fortified and defended, and here 10 riot vans, half a dozen mounted police and a phalanx of heavily armoured officers were waiting for the fans as they drew near brandishing flares.
Red, green and gold smoke filled the air and so too the sound of their favourite chant. ‘Joel Glazer’s gonna die … cut him up from head to toe.’
Police swiftly set about getting the bus moving in a bid to avoid a repeat of the chaos on May 2
The riot police blocked their path to the entrance gates which remained firmly locked. On the far side there was a small army of security stewards and more police with dogs.
For a few minutes it threatened to turn nasty again. Two bottles were thrown and that was the moment the police drew their batons.
Their colleagues on horseback moved in as the fans scattered around the street and the futility of their efforts became clear. They regrouped briefly and resumed signing but the words began to drift off and, slowly, so did they.
Just as deflating for them was the news filtering through that the Liverpool team bus had indeed made it to Old Trafford in good time for the match.
Jurgen Klopp and his players arrived around lunchtime at the Hyatt hotel in Manchester. Having blocked the United players in the Lowry hotel on the last occasion, the protesters targeted their opponents this time.
Liverpool arrived at Old Trafford in a black coach, different to the coach that had been blocked
German coach Jurgen Klopp departs the team bus as the squad arrived at Old Trafford
Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino gets off the team coach before the game on Thursday
Despite a heavy police and security presence around the hotel, they were able to blockade both ends of Kincardine Road to prevent the official Liverpool team bus from getting out, and several demonstrators tried to let the tyres down.
When police managed to clear them away and the bus began to edge forward, bizarre footage emerged on social media of it having to stop for a woman pedalling a man in a basket with a white poodle and awful timing.
The bad news for the protesters was that there was nobody on the bus. The Liverpool players had left the hotel through a different exit in two black coaches flanked by police vans and motorbikes. They arrived at Old Trafford shortly afterwards and were let in by a different entrance on the west side of stadium.
United had also used decoy buses throughout the day to throw fans off the scent when, in fact, the players were told to drive straight to the ground several hours earlier than normal.
Players arrived at the ground this afternoon in a bid to avoid delays seen earlier this month
Security has been bolstered ahead of tonight’s top flight game with added police presence
The club didn’t want to risk meeting at their Carrington training ground – as they did before the game against Leicester on Tuesday – even though extra police and security were on duty there as well on Thursday.
Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Juan Mata and Mason Greenwood were among the first to arrive at Old Trafford around 1.30pm, and the club even set up beds in the corporate boxes for the players to rest before the 8.15pm kick-off.
It went ahead as planned this time. As the fans headed off into the night, one tried to raise a complaint – his words – with the riot police and got very short shrift. Another straggler who wouldn’t move along was practically lifted off his feet across the road by two officers.
All that was left was the smell of flares and horse manure, and a bit of graffiti scrawled on a white plaque. ‘Glazers Die’ it said simply.