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
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
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
Unlike the attitudes of rival fans, the relationship at
boardroom level between Liverpool and Manchester United is much
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.”