April 15 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillborough Disaster, so named for the Sheffield football ground where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in during panicked scenes at the start of 1989 FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. Depending on the results of Friday’s Champions League draw, Liverpool might find themselves visiting a domestic rival on that historic day for the second leg of the quarter finals. The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor reports Manchester United are prepared to unveil a campaign directed at their own supporters’ sensitivity towards the victims of the tragedy.
When the two clubs met at Old Trafford on Saturday a banner saying “Murderers” was draped over the middle section of the Stretford End. There were songs directed at Hillsborough and some Liverpool supporters could be seen making aeroplane gestures to mock the Munich air disaster of 1958.
Many visiting fans also chanted “There’s only one Harold Shipman” “ apparently celebrating the fact that his victims were from the Manchester area “ and a video has appeared on the internet of Liverpool supporters throwing an inflatable plane around outside the ground.
Uefa’s president, Michel Platini, has already pledged to do all he can to make sure Liverpool do not have to play the second leg on the actual anniversary, promising that the organisation is “aware of the huge significance of the 15 April date for both Liverpool and their fans”.
Privately, there is a sense at Old Trafford that it would be better if the two clubs can avoid each other at such a delicate time in Liverpool’s history. However, if they are to meet in the Champions League for the first time United intend to be proactive and investigate various ways of trying to promote a more respectful relationship. How that will take effect has not yet been discussed but one possibility is that Ferguson, the manager, and the club’s ambassador, Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the survivors of the Munich air disaster, will speak out about the importance of good fan behaviour.
United would take their lead from Manchester City’s campaign in the build-up to the 50th anniversary of Munich in January last year. On that occasion City were so concerned that a minute’s silence could be disrupted that their own supporters’ club wrote to United asking, unsuccessfully, for it to be changed to a minute’s applause. However, the publicity that was generated and City’s concerted efforts over the course of several weeks helped to ensure that the club’s supporters behaved impeccably.