- May 8, 2002
- Reaction score
Manchester United fear protesting supporters will try and prevent players from leaving their hotel and then target the team bus tomorrow night in an attempt to force the postponement of their Premier League meeting with Liverpool for the second time in 11 days. The re-arranged fixture is the subject of intense security measures after supporters broke into the ground and forced the cancellation of the original game. That will make it virtually impossible for any fans protesting against the club’s owners, the Glazer family, to approach the ground, let alone force entry. Instead, fans are intent on pursuing the tactic of preventing the United team bus from reaching Old Trafford before kick-off. That approach proved successful last week, with supporters blocking the bus and preventing it from leaving the Lowry Hotel, the squad’s usual pre-match meeting place, in the city centre. United changed their pre-match plans before Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to Leicester and kept their new location a closely-guarded secret having attempted to draw a veil of secrecy over their plans this week. Internal security meetings - normally routine, relaxed affairs - have been pared down to a minimum number, with only a handful of individuals allowed to attend on a “need-to-know” basis. United have even discussed the prospect of parking “decoy” buses at hotels in an effort to mis-direct supporters who are intent on disrupting the game. Supporters, meanwhile, have been calling city-centre hotels in an attempt to discover the base the team is using. However, it is far from certain whether the team will use a hotel at all and it is believed that ahead of the Leicester game players remained at their homes and met prior to travelling to the stadium en masse on Tuesday afternoon. Fans’ move to target players’ transport has come after the huge police reaction to the stormy scenes that accompanied the first game, and ended with six police officers suffering injuries and one requiring hospital treatment for facial wounds. The authorities were caught hugely unprepared on that occasion and have strengthened their operations considerably, with a ring of steel erected around the stadium ahead of the game with Leicester. There were no protests ahead of that fixture with supporters' pressure groups always intending to target the re-scheduled Liverpool game, given its high profile internationally and the impact made by the original postponement, particularly in the Glazers’ native United States. Social media platforms and fans’ forums were active yesterday with talk of demonstrations, with the intention of gaining similar publicity for their anti-Glazer sentiment by causing another cancellation. Asked whether he was concerned by the prospect of a second major protest, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "My job is for Man United and my concern is the Man United fans - what they think about my team, what they want from my team and that we come together as one and show what Man United is."