Alex Ferguson is urging Manchester United fans to back Liverpool’s campaign for justice over the Hillsborough stadium disaster when the sides meet tomorrow for the first time since the release of a damning report into the 1989 tragedy.
The full-scale of wrongdoing by authorities after the death of 96 Liverpool fans in a crush at an FA Cup semi-final was exposed last week, with police shown to have attempted to shift the blame to supporters by instructing officers to change statements United fans responded to the release of the Hillsborough report with tasteless taunts about the tragedy during Saturday’s match against Wigan. It was a reminder ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Liverpool how the rivalry between England’s two most successful teams often spills over into goading in the stands.
However, United and Liverpool executives met this week to plan tributes before the match to remember the 96 victims and mark the continuing fight for justice by families hoping to get the verdict overturned from the original inquest hearing, which ruled the deaths were accidental.
“Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice,” Ferguson writes in a letter that will be presented to fans at Anfield tomorrow. Ferguson is demanding an end to the hostilities, which have often seen Liverpool fans taunt their counterparts about the Munich air disaster in 1958 that claimed the lives of eight United players.
“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,” Ferguson said. “It cannot and should never be based on personal hatred.”