No fans? On this Super Sunday, Old Trafford was jammed

TV View: Souness’ praise of the ‘Glaciers’ irks Neville, while Keane defends protesters

Old Trafford Stadium, where the Manchester United-Liverpool game was postponed   due to safety and security concerns following a protest. Photograph: Tim Keeton/EPA

Old Trafford Stadium, where the Manchester United-Liverpool game was postponed due to safety and security concerns following a protest. Photograph: Tim Keeton/EPA

 

Those who tuned in to Sky News at 3.30 to see a special entitled “The Suez Canal and the Billion Dollar Boat” would have been mightily confused, and possibly left none the wiser when the newsreader announced “we are changing our programming to bring you the latest on the invasion at Old Trafford”. And then when she handed over to Sky’s embedded reporter in Manchester he reassured us that “the changing rooms have stayed bio-secure”.

By now you’d have been left wondering if, say, Kim Jong-un had woken up on Sunday morning and decided that Manchester United was a legitimate target, that the time had come to annex Old Trafford, maybe even rename the team Pyongyang Ramblers. Not that you’d want to be giving the Glazers any ideas.

Because it was the Glazers, as was soon clarified, that this was all about, and not North Korea, a whole heap of supporters ambling in to the ground ahead of the scheduled game against Liverpool to make their feelings known about the Muricans.

(To the 39,583 people who noted that these supporters had more time on the Old Trafford pitch this season than Donny van de Beek: for shame).

It was a tricky one for Sky Sports, not least David Jones who had a revolution taking place over his shoulder when we joined him and his panel of Graeme Souness, Roy Keane and Micah Richards during half-time in the Newcastle v Arsenal game, him briefly noting what was happening, but saying to the lads, “let’s talk about football, shall we?”

Concern

Seeing as Sky, whose only concern, need it be said, is the soul of football, had kick-started the revolution with their coverage of the Super League shenanigans, this was an odd about-turn, almost like revolutions are all very well until they threaten Super Sundays.

“We’ve got the team news, but we haven’t got teams,” said David when we rejoined him after the Newcastle game, the latest being that Old Trafford had been cleared but United and Liverpool were still stuck in their respective hotels. “No sign of United,” said Sky News’ Frazer Maude who, by now, was embedded at the door of their Lowry Hotel, waiting to see if they would unleash shock and awe by emerging.

“I blame Paul Pogba for this,” Graeme didn’t say, even if he might have been tempted, but he went on to have a difference of opinion with young rebels Roy, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher about law and order, and such like. Micah was in a trickier position, saluting United fans for standing up to their owners, but, as a Manchester City “ambassador”, waxing lyrical about what great lads Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak are, like their home patch’s human rights abuses are a small price to pay when you need to offer Kevin de Bruyne a new contract.

Graeme doffed his cap to the “Glaziers”, like United’s owners fit windows for a living, describing them as “serious business people” who had poured mountains of loot in to the club, not quite getting that the only thing they’ve poured in to the club is several million mountains of debt.

Gary’s cheek muscles flexed, like he wanted to do on to Graeme what Graeme did unto many an opponent in his time – ie rearrange their shins – while Roy defended the protesters who, he said, were peaceful, apart from “throwing one or two bottles and a flare – but that was towards Jamie, to be fair”.

Revolutionaries

(Back to Frazer at the Lowry Hotel. “Still no sign of United.”)

By the time the match was called off, Graeme emoted about the flare and beer can that had been chucked up at the punditry gantry by the revolutionaries, insisting that either could have killed the panel, or, at least, left them “permanently scarred”. “Let’s not be tippy-tappy around the situation,” he fulminated.

Roy reminded him that every protest has its idiots, but that shouldn’t take away from the legitimacy of the protest, Graeme, though, wearing the look of a man who wanted to hang ‘em high.

(Back to Frazer at the Lowry Hotel. “Still no sign of United.”)

Super Sunday, then, was left without its crown jewel, but for a year now Sky having been lamenting the absence of fans from their Premier League stadiums. On this Super Sunday, at least, Old Trafford was jammed with them.

(Back to Frazer at the Lowry Hotel. “Still no sign of United.” Nor, indeed, of “The Suez Canal and the Billion Dollar Boat”).

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