There has always been hostility between the supporters (and even players) of both Liverpool and Manchester United, whether it has been Liverpool, and then, ultimately, United, lauding their superiority in the League over their rivals (Come Back When You’ve Won Eighteen/Nineteen), or, unfortunately, each set of supporters singing crude chants regarding each of the sides two disasters, namely Munich and Hillsborough, controversy has always seemed to abide.
There has been Garry Neville kissing the United emblem in front of an irate Anfield crowd and, more recently, Luis Suarez being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra and then refusing to shake his hand in the sides’ next encounter following his eight game ban.
But it’s about time the two heavyweights of English football put all their rivalry behind them, at least for a weekend, anyway.
As the two sides come head to head at Anfield this Sunday, it will mark Liverpool’s first home game since the release of the Hillsborough report found that police attempted to blame supporters for the tragedy and even sought to defame victims by using police records. It also pointedly stated that 41 lives may have been saved had victims been treated more urgently.
This will make for a somewhat sombre occasion at Anfield as supporters from teams all over the country still react to this news. It is also, though, a time for solidarity and unity. 96 Liverpool fans didn’t die on 15th April 1989 – 96 human beings did. There is no room here for football rivalries and allegiances. This was a tragedy that affected each and every single one of us, from Merseyside to Manchester, Liverpool to London, and it is time we all stand together against the apparently appalling behaviour of the police that day.
These are sentiments echoed by United’s veteran manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated to the BBC:
“It is going to be a very emotional day, we will support them in every way we can. We are supportive of Liverpool.”
During last Saturday’s fixture against Wigan though, a small contingent of United’s support were found to be chanting anti-Liverpool remarks regarding Hillsborough. This absolutely cannot happen on Sunday, it is a total disgrace. There are two players who can set the tone and precedent for this match and give the supporters an example to behave by before a ball has been kicked this Sunday, and that is Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra.
If each of them shake hands, it will be as symbolic a gesture as any that these two sides can put the past behind them and stand together, not as footballers or fans, but as human beings.
[.] Shortly before kick-off this Sunday, captains Steven Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic will release 96 balloons in memory of those killed during the FA Cup semi-final in 1989.
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This article was first posted on September 22, 2012