It was the calm before the storm on Saturday night. Manchester United players arrived at The Lowry Hotel to no fanfare or fans. Security present were confident Sunday’s protests would pass without incident and that there would be no protesters at The Lowry. They were lulled into a false sense of security.
The hundreds who congregated outside the team hotel on Sunday afternoon arrived earlier than the photographers planning to snap United’s departure. Militant United supporters had The Lowry in mind as the prime target for the day of the Liverpool fixture as far back as two weeks ago, before 20 of them rocked up at Carrington almost two weeks ago. The ‘We decide when you play’ bedsheet was not a hollow statement.
The announcement there would be a 2pm protest at Old Trafford blindsided security at The Lowry. It was a diversion tactic Jose Mourinho, appropriately The Lowry’s most famous inhabitant, would have approved of.
Sources acknowledge the bottleneck entrance to the hotel has been an issue for some time. The recent enhancement of the site included a secure car park on Dearmans Place but the traffic flow is still problematic, particularly for two coaches ferrying footballers.
During the protest, four men were identified as the orchestrators. Following the breach at Old Trafford, where hundreds embarked on a pitch invasion, a police officer informed a photographer at The Lowry the game was still likely to go ahead as the dressing rooms were still Covid-secure.
One of the orchestrators was earwigging, immediately phoned a comrade at the stadium and informed him to ‘kick the dressing room doors in’. Some of the United staff who had arrived at the stadium early watched the scenes unfold on television from inside the home dressing room.
The game was postponed, regardless, and United fans outside The Lowry let off flares in celebration in Chapel Street – the road the team coaches were supposed to pull out of en route to the stadium.
Eyewitnesses say some of the United players looked ‘imprisoned’ at their pre-match base. When photographers zoomed their lenses on the windows, Donny van de Beek hid and Luke Shaw stared down at them. Brandon Williams and Marcus Rashford watched with interest while others videoed from their vantage point.
The players’ cars were parked at Old Trafford yet, once United finally got the go-ahead to depart, they were not driven to the stadium to collect their vehicles. It has been suggested the players were taken to their Carrington training complex to stretch their legs after being cooped up for almost 24 hours.
There was no significant damage to the coaches other than some scratches on mirrors. The two coach drivers were thanked for their efforts despite never having stayed in neutral as long. There was not a single supporter outside Liverpool’s hotel in the city centre.
In Stretford, the Tesco Extra on Chester Road ran out of beer. Some of The Lowry security bods could do with a pint.