London (AFP) – Manchester United’s clash against Liverpool was postponed after furious fans stormed Old Trafford in protest at the club’s owners on Sunday, while Arsenal kept Newcastle waiting to confirm their Premier League safety with a 2-0 win at St James Park.
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 ugly scenes several hours before kick-off at Old Trafford.
The Glazer family, already disliked by many United supporters, were widely criticised for their leading role in the failed breakaway European Super League.
That prompted United fans to call for a demonstration before the Liverpool game and an angry mob of 200 protesters pushed down security barriers outside Old Trafford before running onto the pitch.
Fans waved anti-Glazer banners and set off green and yellow flares — the colours of United’s Newton Heath founders.
One protester was filmed picking up a camera tripod from a pitchside media position and hurling it onto the pitch.
Others tried to get down the tunnel, while another took a corner flag and some swung from the crossbar of one of the goals.
A flare was fired towards a television commentary gantry and small sections of the turf were damaged.
There were also clashes as fans tried to break police lines outside, with officers drawing batons to keep the crowds back and bottles and other projectiles thrown.
A line of riot police, backed by horses, eventually pushed the crowds away from the stadium.
Both United and Liverpool’s players were in their team hotels when the breach occurred.
Some fans also blockaded the entrance to the Lowry Hotel where the United players and staff were staying.
The scheduled 1530 GMT kick-off was delayed while Premier League chiefs discussed the situation, with United eventually announcing the postponement at 1640 GMT.
“Following discussion between the Police, the Premier League, Trafford Council and the clubs, our match against Liverpool has been postponed due to safety and security considerations around the protest today,” United said in a statement.
“Discussions will now take place with the Premier League on a revised date for the fixture.”
Pressure is mounting on the United States-based Glazer family, who bought the club in 2005.
The angry scenes at Old Trafford came after a smaller group of United fans broke into the club’s training ground last week to protest against the Glazers.
– ‘No place in football’ –
“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.
“Fans have many channels by which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification.
“We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football.”
Arsenal won for the first time in four games in all competitions 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.
Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal has already been billed by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta as the “crucial moment” in Arsenal’s season.
Arsenal will try to overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit and they enjoyed the ideal preparation on Tyneside.
In the sixth minute, Hector Bellerin ran onto David Luiz’s long pass and cut his cross back to Aubameyang.
Aubameyang miscued his attempted shot but the ball ran to Egypt midfielder Elneny and he smashed a fine strike past Martin Dubravka from the edge of the area.
Aubameyang killed off Newcastle in the 66th minute with his first goal in seven games.
The Gabon forward met Gabriel Martinelli’s cross with a superb flying volley from six yards.
Newcastle had Fabian Schar sent off in the 90th minute for a late challenge on Martinelli.
Tottenham host Sheffield United in the day’s late game.
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