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On May 2nd, 2021, fan protests at Old Trafford resulted in the postponement of the Red Devils’ Premier League clash with the 2019-20 champions, Liverpool. The game was rescheduled for May 13th, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team fell to a 4-2 defeat as protestors once again voiced their displeasure outside the ground. The anger among the United faithful finally reached boiling point, but it’s left many wondering the following question; why is now the right time to protest?
Protest Passion Needs to be Mirrored on the Field and in the Boardroom
Manchester United are the most successful team in England with 66 trophies. However, past seasons have fallen well short of expectations. Although the Red Devils won the FA Cup in 2015-16 and the Europa League and Carabao Cup in 2016-17, the club have lacked a level of passion from top to bottom that was integral during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure. In Solskjaer’s defence, he is attempting to reconnect the club with fans, and he’s succeeded to an extent by taking United back to a European final. As of May 18th, the Red Devils are 4/5 in Europa League odds 2021 to beat Villarreal in this year’s final. Should they triumph, it will at least appease supporters, at least in the desire for trophies, for a short while.
Since Ferguson’s departure in 2013, Manchester United have often been described as passive by fans and pundits alike. The attack-minded style that took the club’s famous Scottish manager to unprecedented domestic success formed the team's core identity. However, the never-say-die attitude has since vanished on the field, but the fans retain their passionate belief in the club’s ability to triumph despite the odds being against them. In light of the protests, former Manchester United full-back, Gary Neville, highlighted a “general distrust and dislike” for the Glazer ownership.
An Effort to Reclaim the Game from Businessmen
Manchester United fans have never been supporters of the Glazers, even during periods of success. The recent catalyst for off-field disruption stemmed from the club’s ownership signing up to join the infamous European Super League. Although the Glazer family would later backtrack, it was too late to reverse the damage. According to The Guardian, this is the third time that United fans have protested against the owners, doing so in 2005 and 2010.
As touched on above, United’s on-field performances haven’t helped unite the club and the supporters. It speaks volumes about the Red Devils’ decline that they’re yet to win the Premier League in a post-Ferguson era. Not only that, but watching Liverpool and Manchester City claim numerous titles also hasn’t helped the mood at Old Trafford. However, this isn’t the root cause, nor the purpose, of the protests. As the Evening Standard reports, the overriding objective is to “reclaim the people’s game”.
What Happens Next?
Despite the backlash, there are no indications that the Glazers are looking to sell Manchester United. In the current climate, finding a buyer won’t be easy. Moreover, there’s an argument to be made that supporters should be careful as the grass isn't always greener. That said, the protests show that morality and the spirit of the game remains strong, even in an era fuelled by greed. One only needs to look at the fan-formed breakaway club FC United of Manchester to see that. Nobody doubts that United fans deserve better, but selling a football club isn’t an overnight job.