May 15, 2021

Man Utd

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Liverpool fans have shown Man United what impact owner protests can have

4 min read

The scenes which unfolded at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon are as indicative as they were iconic.

As the biggest rivals in English football prepared to lock horns, protests against the Glazers literally spilled over onto the pitch and, without a ball being kicked, the biggest of statements was made.

Manchester United and Liverpool are not so much cat and dog as two alphas of the same species vying for the pinnacle position – no matter what new money at Chelsea and Manchester City might argue.

In the midst of backlash to the shelved European Super League (ESL) proposals, supporters throughout the country – even those with such a long-standing and passionate divide as United and Liverpool – joined forces to stand up to the alarming threat to football as we know it.

Victory was achieved in that sense, but it merely underlined issues brewing under the surface.

Big-money and high-powered owners at both Premier League clubs were heavily scrutinised for their involvement in the much-maligned reform, spearheaded by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

In the case of United, long-running protests against the Glazers have ramped up in the aftermath of the Super League plot, culminating in stand-offs at their Carrington training base, outside Old Trafford and even above the skies at Elland Road.

On Sunday afternoon, that resistance took on greater significance still, forcing not only the postponement of the biggest game in English football, but one in which the result might have sealed the Premier League title for a third party across the city.

But where do the fans go from here?

If they are in need of further encouragement and indication as to what such an eye-catching protest can do, amid widespread national and international exposure, then they don’t have to look too much further than the fanbase of Sunday’s would-be opponents Liverpool.

Indeed, before the dust had even settled on the early stages of Glazer ownership, an equally opposed regime was successfully driven away from Anfield.

Back in February 2007, the Reds and their previous owner David Moores – a lifelong Liverpool fan who held a role as chairman at the club for 16 years – were bought out by two American businessmen.

Fast forward three-and-a-half years and Tom Hicks and George Gillett were already being pushed out of the door.

Upon completing their takeover, Hicks claimed: “This is not a takeover like the Glazer deal at Manchester United. There is no debt involved. We believe that as custodians of this wonderful, storied club we have a duty of care to the tradition and legacies of Liverpool.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the parallels are there for all to see.

United might not have slumped in quite the same way Liverpool did on the pitch during the Hicks and Gillett regime.

Indeed, in the build-up to their departure, the Reds found themselves in the Premier League relegation zone after a disastrous start to 2010/2011 – picking up just six points from their opening seven games of the season.

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Hicks and Gillett did, though, leave Liverpool on the verge of financial meltdown and with administration threats, having dragged their heels on a £237million loan repayment to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Similarly to recent scenes at Old Trafford and beyond – which may have been ramped up further had it not been for constraints brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic – several protests against Hicks and Gillett were held at Anfield and across the city of Liverpool.

Iconic former players and managers were welcomed on board, too.

Ultimately, amid financial struggles, such public opposition – with supporters at the very forefront – spelled the end of Hicks and Gillett by October 2010, with FSG stepping into the breach.

It’s been a much longer process to get to that stage at Old Trafford, but although there are parallels when it comes to business models and resistance fronted up by fans, it’s not only an ESL U-turn that can serve as inspiration to the United supporters who want to achieve exactly what the fans of their biggest rivals achieved close to 11 years ago.

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