Reds set for ‘normal’ United visit

Liverpool will treat Manchester United’s visit like any other

from their rivals on what is expected to be an emotionally-charged

afternoon.

Sunday’s encounter is Liverpool’s first appearance at home since

the Hillsborough Independent Panel cleared the club’s supporters of

any blame in relation to the 1989 disaster when 96 fans lost their

lives.

The club will, understandably, mark this breakthrough for the

bereaved families at the game and want that to be given due

deference instead of any other issues surrounding supporters or

players. The club have yet to reveal their plans for any tributes

to the Hillsborough victims at the game.

The atmosphere at past games has always been volatile but after

the race row which engulfed Reds striker Luis Suarez and Patrice

Evra in the corresponding fixture last October tensions between

fans have gone up a notch.

Suarez, banned for eight matches by the Football Association

after being found guilty of using racially abusive language, did

not shake the Frenchman’s hand when they met at Old Trafford in

February and that eventually resulted in apologies from Liverpool

and the player.

The Uruguay international is expected to shake hands with Evra

if they line up opposite each other at Anfield, where the focus

will be on matters of far greater significance.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers and counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson last

week called for an end to the distasteful chants by rival fans

about Hillsborough and the Munich air disaster of 1958, in which

eight United players were among those killed. However, a small

minority of United supporters briefly ignored those pleas during

the Red Devils’ victory over Wigan on Saturday.

The managers are likely to be asked about their supporters’

behaviour again in the pre-match build-up later this week but at an

organisational level nothing out of the ordinary is being

planned.

Unlike the attitudes of rival fans, the relationship at

boardroom level between Liverpool and Manchester United is much

more cordial.

Dialogue frequently takes place between the two clubs and that,

as is the norm before the north west rivals’ matches, is expected

to be the case again this week.

The Hillsborough families’ fight for justice was supported by

clubs and supporters up and down the country at the weekend and

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul

Gilhooley was killed in the tragedy, expressed his thanks.

“It’s been mixed emotions since the report came out,” said the

England midfielder after their 1-1 draw at Sunderland. “We’re

really happy with the breakthrough but it brings back memories of

all those years ago.

“On behalf of the club I’d like to thank everyone in the city,

both Red and Blue, and everyone around the country for supporting

our club and our fans.”