London (AFP) – Manchester United’s Premier League clash against Liverpool was postponed after furious United fans stormed Old Trafford in protest at the club’s owners on Sunday, while Gareth Bale scored a hat-trick as Tottenham thrashed Sheffield United 4-0.
Manchester City would have been crowned English champions for the third time in four seasons if second-placed United had lost to Liverpool.
But Pep Guardiola’s side saw their hopes of a title party put on hold after the biggest game in English football was postponed amid chaotic scenes at Old Trafford.
The Glazer family, already unpopular for their leveraged buyout of the club 16 years ago that saddled United with huge debt repayments, were widely criticised for their leading role in the failed breakaway European Super League project.
That prompted United fans to call for a demonstration before the Liverpool game and around 200 protesters made their way onto the pitch where they waved anti-Glazer banners and set off green and yellow flares — the colours of United’s Newton Heath founders.
Supporters are hoping to pressure American-based Glazers into selling the club.
Some fans also blockaded the entrance to the Lowry Hotel where the United players and staff were staying.
A line of riot police, backed by horses, eventually pushed the crowds away from the stadium.
The scheduled 1530 GMT kick-off was delayed while Premier League chiefs discussed the situation, with United eventually announcing the postponement at 1640 GMT.
“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we completely acknowledge the right to free expression and peaceful protest,” United’s statement added.
“However, we regret the disruption to the team and actions which put other fans, staff, and the police in danger.”
A Premier League statement added: “We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches.”
Liverpool said they were in “full agreement” with the decision to postpone the match as the safety of their players could not be guaranteed.
– Bale back in favour –
Tottenham took advantage of Liverpool’s inactivity to move up to fifth in the table thanks to Bale’s first ever Premier League hat-trick.
The Welshman was a peripheral figure under Jose Mourinho in his season-long loan from Real Madrid, but has now struck four times in three games since Ryan Mason replaced the sacked Portuguese coach.
Bale flicked home from close range to break the deadlock nine minutes before half-time.
A blistering counter-attack from a Sheffield United corner then saw Son Heung-min tee up Bale for an emphatic finish into the top corner.
Bale’s low drive into the bottom corner completed his hat-trick before Son added a fourth.
Tottenham are now just five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with four games to go.
Earlier, Arsenal beat Newcastle 2-0 to end a four-game winless run thanks to Mohamed Elneny’s first Premier League goal and a superb strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Fourth-bottom Newcastle remain nine points clear of the relegation zone with four games left.
Victory moves Arsenal up to ninth, but their season now hinges on overturning a 2-1 first leg defeat against Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday.
Mikel Arteta’s team selection showed that is where his priority lay, but Aubameyang’s return to form is a timely boost.
The Arsenal captain had been hospitalised recently by malaria, picked up when on international duty with Gabon.
After Elneny’s early strike gave the Gunners a deserved half-time lead, Aubameyang stretched to meet Gabriel Martinelli’s cross for his first goal in seven games.
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