Liverpool, United add respect to rivalry

(AFP) – Matches between Liverpool and Manchester United have always contained incredible history and rivalry, on and off the pitch.

But when the two sides meet at Anfield on today, there will be a huge amount of respect on show at the end of what has been an emotional fortnight for Liverpool.

The match is the first at their home ground since the release of a damning report into the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death before an FA Cup tie on April 15, 1989.

The report absolved the fans of any blame, slamming the police and politicians for overseeing a cover-up of the facts. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said his side were ready to cope with all that comes with the day.

“I’m very much looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s a game I’ve grown up watching all of my life,” he said.

“Two massive clubs and it’s a great opportunity to be involved in such a game.

“But, first and foremost, it’s a great opportunity for us as a club to commemorate and to pay tribute to the families and the people involved with Hillsborough, and show and pay our respects to the families at the game.

“Hopefully we can then go on and get three points, which would set off what would hopefully be a great day for us.”

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson took the unprecedented step of writing a letter to his fans, urging them to show their respect by not singing the kind of offensive chants a minority of their supporters have indulged in, in the past.

“Our rivalry with Liverpool is based on a determination to come out on top – a wish to see us crowned the best against a team that held that honour for so long,” he said.

“It cannot and should never be based on personal hatred. Just ten days ago, we heard the terrible, damning truth about the deaths of 96 fans who went to watch their team try and reach the FA Cup final and never came back.

“What happened to them should wake the conscience of everyone connected with the game. Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice.”

When the two sides met last year, there was a huge moment of controversy when Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was alleged to have racially abused United full back Patrice Evra.

Suarez was later banned for eight matches and when the two sides met again at Old Trafford, they refused to take part in the pre-match handshake.

This time, the two teams have promised to shake hands while former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has suggested they go even further.

“It would be nice for Luis Suarez to put some flowers at the United end regarding (the) Munich (air disaster, when seven United players were among 21 people killed), and for Patrice Evra to do so at the Kop,” Fowler said.

“The two clubs do have a rivalry, but some things are far more important than football and this is one of them.”

Six players have been sent off in the past 11 matches between the two and Ferguson said it was crucial his side behave well.

“There’s a great atmosphere, fantastic, and the kind of atmosphere you want to be involved in,” he said. “It does get emotive, but you just have to handle that”.