Manchester United fans invade Old Trafford pitch and set off flares

Manchester United warn protesting fans involved in ‘criminal activity’ will be punished

Clashes with police left two officers injured while United’s game with Liverpool had to be postponed

Manchester United have warned any fans who engaged in “criminal activity” during Sunday’s protests will be punished by both the police and the club.

Thousands of United fans gathered outside the team hotel and around Old Trafford to demonstrate against the Glazer family’s ownership. Hundreds stormed the stadium itself and ran on to the pitch, while clashes with police outside left two officers injured. 

The protest caused United’s Premier League fixture with Liverpool – due to kick-off two hours after fans first ran on to the pitch – to be postponed. The clubs are in talks with the league about finding a new date for the game. 

In a statement on Monday, United rejected reports that fans had simply walked into the stadium and accused protestors of “breaking through barriers and security” and “forcing access” to the stands. 

The club also said: “A protestor smashed the door of a disability access lift, enabling a group to enter the stand.”

They added: “The majority of our fans have and will condemn criminal among, along with any violence towards club staff, police or other fans, and these now become a police matter. The club has no desire to see peaceful protestors punished, but will work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season ticket holder or member identified, per the published sanctions policy.”

Greater Manchester Police condemned violence against its officers.

“Those in the stadium were evicted by officers but outside on the forecourt hostility grew with bottles and barriers being thrown at officers and horses,” the force said on Sunday evening. “Two officers have been injured with one officer being attacked with a bottle and sustaining a significant slash wound to his face, requiring emergency hospital treatment.”

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville defended the protest, although he condemned any fans who had not been “peaceful”. He said it was a “warning” to the Glazers after supporters had been pushed to action following the recent European Super League debacle in which United’s hierarchy was a key ringleader.

“I think it’s a warning to the owners of the football club that ultimately they’re not going to accept what they’ve done over the past couple of weeks,” former United defender Neville said. “We don’t quite know the extent of what’s happened outside the ground. We know fans came into the ground and they were reasonably peaceful, but if there has been disturbances outside then that’s not something I think is acceptable.

“But the reality is that a game has been called off today and the fans have spoken. The fans spoke out a couple of weeks ago about this proposal, and there was a U-turn from the owners of the six clubs in this country, and it’s not going to go away.”

However speaking on the BBC, Alan Shearer said the protest went to far and was “unacceptable”.

“I understand the fans’ frustration and their anger,” Shearer told Match of the Day 2. “Totally acceptable because of what has gone on in the last 10 days or two weeks with the European Super League. Football was nearly taken away from us as we known and as we have known it forever. I’m all for protesting – but not like that, you can’t protest like that.

“We’ve seen other fans protesting at other football clubs because they’re not happy but when you get fans breaking into stadiums, hurting police officers, smashing glass to get into hospitality, that’s not the way to do it, it’s not acceptable.”

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