London – Liverpool will order Luis Suarez to shake hands with Manchester United rival Patrice Evra as the two clubs bid to defuse next Sunday’s potentially explosive clash.
The teams meet at Anfield with emotions running high after sick chants aimed at Liverpool were heard at Old Trafford on Saturday and with memories of last season’s racism controversy between Suarez and Evra still fresh.
United chief executive David Gill will this week hold talks with Liverpool counterpart Ian Ayre in a bid to ensure the Barclays Premier League clash passes off without controversy. And Liverpool will tell Suarez to shake hands with Evra and are confident he will comply this time, unlike last season when he snubbed the United defender.
Neither club want anything to happen to further tarnish the name of the English game and are on red alert after United were forced to condemn a minority of their fans for singing anti-Liverpool songs during their win over Wigan at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The FA are happy with United’s response and will not be getting involved.
The Premier League on Sunday also confirmed they would take no action over the chants.
It is understood Gill and Ayre will talk early this week about how to minimise the risk of an explosive incident and the best way to show respect to the 96 Hillsborough victims.
A minute’s silence is the preferred option but it is possible a minute’s applause will be held to minimise the chance of disruption.
United may also lay a wreath in memory of the victims before kick-off, just as former Manchester City manager Sven Goran Eriksson did when the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster fell the day the two rivals met at Old Trafford four years ago.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said last Friday he hoped the magnitude of the occasion would ensure he didn’t have to appeal personally to his club’s travelling supporters ahead of Sunday’s game.
However, this view may change in the wake of the weekend’s events.
During the first half of United’s 4-0 win over Wigan, a chant of “Stand up if you hate Scousers” was followed by the usual disrespectful adaptation of You’ll Never Walk Alone.
That much may have passed without comment, but a line may just have been crossed when a section of the Stretford End broke into a chorus of “Always the victim, it’s never your fault.” It was scarcely audible, and some didn’t hear it at all, but enough did for it to cause a furore, with the topic dominating Twitter and BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 phone-in programme.
United swiftly issued a statement which read: “The manager has made the club’s position on this very clear, and it is now up to the fans to respect that. The club deplore it.”
Labour shadow health minister Andy Burnham said on Radio 5 Live: “I know it’s a minority and the vast majority of United fans would condemn it, but they are disrespecting their manager because he’d asked them not to and I think football has to get rid of this.
“This ridiculous thing where people are chanting about death, it’s just got to go.”
Supporters group MUST echoed the official Old Trafford stance but warned against over-reacting for fear of inflaming hostilities ahead of next weekend’s showdown.
A statement said: “MUST wishes to make it absolutely clear that we condemn any chants relating to Hillsborough or indeed any other human tragedy.
“We did hear the usual anti-Liverpool chants at the match today but we’re pleased to say, despite some reports to the contrary, there was nothing specifically referencing Hillsborough. Any attempt to suggest otherwise is irresponsible, given the forthcoming fixture between the clubs.”
Professional Footballers’ Association chairman Clarke Carlisle revealed the PFA failed in bids to get Liverpool and Manchester United together over the issue and QPR and Chelsea over the Anton Ferdinand-John Terry row. – Daily Mail