Manchester United vs Liverpool: Five of the most extraordinary football match postponements

Manchester United vs Liverpool: Five of the most extraordinary football match postponements

Manchester United's Old Trafford. Photo - Rob Sills

Manchester United were supposed to face Liverpool in a crucial Premier League match at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, however the match was postponed due to a fan protest. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the stadium to protest against their owners – the Glazer family.

However, scenes turned ugly with some supporters allegedly breaking into Old Trafford and gaining access to the pitch. Videos emerged on social media of flares being set off and fans chanting on the pitch, leaving police no choice but to attempt to disperse the crowds. Despite being successful and eventually clearing the area, the match was not able to go ahead.

In the wake of Sunday’s events in Manchester, here are five other ordinary matches that have been abandoned due to extraordinary circumstances…

FC Gronigen vs Ajax – 2009

Eredivisie leaders Ajax visited Gronigen, whose supporters were adamant to create a hostile and excellent atmosphere for the occasion. Their means of accomplishing this was to purchase thousands of toilet rolls and launch them onto the pitch as the players entered the arena, creating an abundance of white streams to welcome their heroes.

Some fans got slightly carried away, however, and decided to set some of the toilet rolls alight. This caused fires in the main stand and on the pitch below, and also led to inhalation problems for some players, leading to its postponement.

Sheffield United vs Oldham Athletic – 1985

Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane before a Championship game in 2019. Photo – Rob Sills

A Division Two fixture between Sheffield United vs Oldham was called off because of the discovery of an unexploded WW2 bomb on a road adjacent to the stadium in the build-up to kick-off. Due to the location of the bomb and the difficulty to diffuse it, the match was eventually played the following Tuesday.

Luckily for the Blades, they had an extra three days to recover from an injury crisis and won the eventual game 2-0.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle vs Falkirk – 1979

These two sides were set to meet in the Scottish Cup 2nd Round on 6th January 1979 but due to extraordinary circumstances, this game holds the British record for the most postponements to a single fixture.

Due to freezing conditions in the north of the country, the match was called off 29 times and was eventually played at the end of February. Falkirk won the clash 4-0 at the 30th attempt, and three days later bowed out of the tournament in the third round against Dundee United.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle are housed right by the sea, prompting freezing conditions in winter months. Credit: Aldon

Sheffield United vs West Bromwich Albion – 2002

Back to Bramall Lane again, where this time Sheffield United were hosting West Brom in a league fixture. It was just one of those days for The Blades, where everything that could have possibly gone wrong during the game, went wrong. Goalkeeper Simon Tracey received a red card after just nine minutes for a handball outside the box, and after United had made all three substitutions in attempt to change their fortunes, one of those replacements, George Santos, was sent off after 65 minutes. Another substitute, Patrick Suffo, was so irate with the decision that he was also given his marching orders for his protests.

With Sheffield United down to eight players and no substitutes left to make, midfielder Michael Brown limped off injured after 80 minutes, with team-mate Robert Ullathorne’s following suit two minutes later. The referee had no choice but to abandon the game as United had been reduced to six players which is fewer than the minimum of seven. Unfortunately for Albion, they were 3-0 up when the match was postponed.

Estonia vs Scotland – 1996

One of the most famous reasons for a match being abandoned came when Scotland travelled to Estonia for a World Cup Qualifier in 1996. The game was scheduled for 6:45pm, but Scotland were not happy with the quality of the floodlights after holding a training session there the day before the game.

The Scots agreed with FIFA to bring the game forward to 3pm, so that it would not be played in the dark, but Estonia were not happy with the decision, and refused to turn up to the game. They blamed a TV contract and problems getting into the ground, so Scotland were the only team in attendance. Strangely, the away side were allowed to kick-off the match, before the referee abandoned it after three seconds, and the game was replayed at a neutral venue at a later date.

Honourable mention

In March 2011, fierce rivals Claypole and Victoriano Arenas met in the Argentinian fifth tier. These matches are usually heated, with players getting riled up fairly easily. But this occasion was like no other. A mass brawl erupted with the referee sending off all 22 players on the pitch, as well as the 14 substitutes and coaches. Some fans even got involved in the fight and the game was abandoned with the referee having given 36 red cards.