The Tollgate to Old Trafford – how the #GlazersOut protest happened

As I got off the tram at Trafford Bar, I was struck by the sulphurous smell of pyrotechnics. The headphones came off and the next sensation was the distant sound of hundreds of United fans ready to protest. I got to the tollgate around 5:30pm thinking I’d be one of the first there – how wrong I was.

The Tollgate

By the time I arrived, over 1,000 United fans were in and around the pub. The venue, selected by The 1958 and M.U.S.T. fan groups who organised the protest, was only letting ticketed fans in. I wandered around the back to the car park and saw a horde of United fans drinking, singing and having a good time underneath the giant corrugated smoking shelter.

Unofficial jerseys – like the ‘Martinez – 6’ seen here – have become prevalent this season. They are seen as a way to support the team without providing money to the Glazers.

The atmosphere was surprisingly jovial. The fans, though understandably annoyed at how their club was being run, refused to be in dampened spirits. The United faithful made sure that all of their songs – choruses and verses – were being sung that day. Largely, the chants were aimed at Joel Glazer and Steven Gerrard. It was derby day after all. 

The protesting crowd began to form before 5pm and continued to grow through the evening.

About an hour in, a posh, tinted bus rolled by the pub. It was assumed, incorrectly, to be the Liverpool team bus. Fans threw bottles, cans and sand some unsavoury chants. This incident, along with a partially destroyed metal fence, were the only detractors from an otherwise peaceful and joyful protest.

The bus, mistaken for Liverpool’s team bus, received a tirade of abuse and was pelted with cans.

The March

At around 6:45 pm, the sizeable crowd left the pub and began to form on Talbot Road. One young lad in front of me climbed a traffic light to a chorus of cheers. From up there, he must have had a fantastic view of the estimated 10,000 supporters who showed up. Down at street level, it was flares, banners, beer tins, and balding heads as far as the eye could see either way. From one side of the pavement to the other and for further than you could see, the crowd headed south towards the cricket stadium.

A young fan scaled the traffic lights for a better view.

The atmosphere at the protest stayed very jovial throughout. That is not to say that Joel Glazer would have been anything other than shocked at what some fans had to say. 

The Glazer family leveraged huge debts onto Manchester United when they took over the football club in 2005.

The flares became chokingly frequent on the walk up Sir Matt Busby Way. At no point did the march feel unsafe, despite several times the crowd’s flow stopping and starting again, like cars in a motorway traffic jam.

With Old Trafford in sight, the noise became increasingly impressive. One worry of mine, the metal fence set up by the East Stand, would be the final destination. As the protesters joined the regular foot traffic of match day outside Old Trafford, there was no room to move. You had simply only to sway with the crowd in the general direction of the East Stand and the Munich clock. 

Old Trafford grew nearer as the march drew to close.

The Stadium

As the crowd arrived at the Munich clock, they were met with the white obelisk fence. As it turns out, this fence did its job fantastically and the crowd soon dispersed. Not before the United faithful had one more flurry of tirades against their eternal rivals, the Liverpool fans, who were behind the fence heading to their designated away seating. 

Were there outdated and morose chants? Yes. Were there a gaggle of idiots there to inevitably cause trouble? Of course. Inevitably and unfortunately, these things are par for the course in modern football fans’ world. In a parallel universe, with the roles reversed, Liverpool fans and United fans would surely have found themselves in similar positions.

In terms of the protest however, several thousand United fans sent an unequivocal message on Monday night. These fans are getting very fed up. The more information is shared and the more the average fan understands, the greater the discontent grows and the more untenable the Glazer’s stewardship of Manchester United feels. While close rivals’ owners have inundated their respective clubs with finance, investment, ingenuinity and positivity, the Glazers have stapled shut their own wallets and siphoned both money and, more poignantly, lifeblood from this club. With the soul of the club in immediate jeopardy, the fans covered themselves in glory with a successful and meaningful protest against the owners.

Author: Sam Talbot

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