Recent fixtures between the clubs have been marred by an increase in hostility among fans, with chants mocking the tragedies of Munich and Hillsborough.
Levels of animosity deepened further last season in the wake of the Luis
Suárez-Patrice Evra racism saga, which resulted in the
But with next week’s fixture the first game staged at Anfield since the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report – which cleared Liverpool supporters of any blame in the 1989 tragedy in which 96 died – Ferguson insists the time has come for both sets of supporters to end the bitterness.
“There are always opportunities to show your greatness and I think this is
another one,” the
He added that “it shouldn’t need what’s happened during the week” to change attitudes, “but the fact we’re playing them after the findings we’ve been reading about the past couple of days does bring a focus to it.
“Both clubs have suffered tremendous fatalities through football and you would hope that maybe this is the line in the sand in terms of how supporters behave towards one another. Certainly the reputation of both clubs doesn’t deserve that. You hope fans do behave themselves, support their team and that would be the end of it. We will see.”
Ferguson claims the treatment of football supporters during the 1980s, a decade scarred by hooliganism, contributed to the Hillsborough tragedy. “The thing that sticks out in my mind at that time was those fences around the stadium,” Ferguson said. “That turned out to be catastrophic. I remember us going to Derby in the time of Michael Knighton and they had fences around the ground then.
“We took a massive support of about 10,000 fans and Michael was walking round, shaking hands with the fans, and they were trying to climb over those fences. It was frightening. You think back to those fences, they were put up to avoid fans going on to the pitch, but it turned out it cost lives. I think it contributed to what happened at Hillsborough.”
United face Wigan at Old Trafford today with Ferguson yet to tell David De Gea or Anders Lindegaard which will play in goal. The United manager, who has voiced concerns over the team’s defensive frailties this season, offered fitness updates on Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher, who has been out for 10 months with a chronic bowel condition.
“Darren Fletcher is training very well,” Ferguson said. “The next step we should take is when we can involve him in a game with the first team. He’s in the squad today because I think it will give him a boost.
“Rooney is doing very well. His thigh scar has healed well. The issue will be when we decide to put him in a game, we have to take the medical advice on that. He’s not in full training, all his work is being done with the physios.”