MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United’s protesting fans were back inside Old Trafford — legally this time — and were treated to a wonder goal by Edinson Cavani in a 1-1 draw against already-relegated Fulham in the Premier League on Tuesday.
A crowd of 10,000 home supporters were allowed to attend the game following an easing of lockdown restrictions by the British government, marking the first time in 14 months that United played in front of spectators at Old Trafford.
Many fans held up placards calling for the removal of the club’s American owners as the teams came out for kickoff, and they were wearing green-and-gold scarves synonymous with the movement to oust the Glazer family.
Around 2½ weeks ago, some United supporters got into the stadium and onto the field during more fervent anti-Glazer protests, causing the postponement of a match against Liverpool.
Cavani ensured the spectators’ focus was on on-field matters when the Uruguay striker scored in the 15th minute off a brilliant chip from about 50 meters, after running onto a clearance by goalkeeper David De Gea — that was helped on by the slightest of flicks from Bruno Fernandes — and noticing Fulham ’keeper Alphonse Areola was off his line.
United wasn’t at its fluent best, a week before contesting the Europa League final against Villarreal, and Fulham equalized when left back Joe Bryan headed in a cross from Bobby Decordova-Reid in the 76th.
The result against the league’s third-to-last team guaranteed a second-place finish for United but underlined its need to reinforce the squad this summer and fans underlined their desire for change, with co-chairman Joel Glazer the target of much of the criticism before the game.
The match was regarded as a potential test for security after the demonstrations by fans that led to the postponement of the Liverpool game. On this occasion, there were no significant gatherings outside the ground.
The 10-foot steel fence placed at the entrance of the Munich Tunnel to keep fans out of recent games was replaced by turnstiles and supporters began to file into the ground 90 minutes before the early evening kickoff.
Many fans could be seen displaying placards reading ‘GO Glazers Out.’ The opposing side of the banner reads ’50+1 time to change’, a reference to a fan-ownership structure some have been calling for within the English game.
There was a huge applause when the stadium announcer welcomed fans back saying: “It’s not been the same without you.”
Both teams have one game left this season, with United expected to field a second-string lineup against Wolverhampton on Sunday to protect its leading players for the Europa League final.