Reds set for 'normal' United visit

Reds set for 'normal' United visit

Published Sep. 17, 2012 9:15 a.m. ET

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."