The scenes after the Liverpool v Manchester United match last Sunday were appalling. On a day that started so well, the positive issue of the truth coming out about the Hillsborough disaster was ruined by a small section of Manchester United fans after they were provoked by Liverpool supporters.
Add to this the fact that referee Mark Halsey has had to bring in the police after he was verbally abused relating to his battle against cancer three years ago and it makes you wonder what’s happened to football support. It would seem now more than ever that some supporters of football clubs simply go around looking for trouble, looking for a scapegoat instead of actually getting behind their team and supporting their club.
As Sir Alex Ferguson said in his pre-match letter to United fans last Sunday, the whole point of rivalry is an aim to be better than each other, it shouldn’t have anything to do with personal hatred. There would have been Liverpool and United fans at the game on Sunday, just there to watch the football with no strong views for or against anything away from the pitch.
The Twitter abuse of an official simply doing his job can be called pathetic. Halsey made two calls in the red card for Jonjo Shelvey and the penalty awarded for United that have attracted vile personal abuse from someone hiding behind a computer screen. It’s just a shame that such a popular and positive social media outlet like Twitter can be abused in such a negative way.
Plenty is being done away from the pitch to try and crack down on hooliganism and ensure that more average or ‘normal’ fans are treated to a more pleasant match day experience. Ironically it was standing that allowed fans to simply move if they didn’t like being near certain supporters, something eradicated quickly after the Hillsborough tragedy.
It’s very important that average Liverpool and Manchester United fans don’t feel misrepresented by what has gone on over the last couple of days. The percentage of fans that actually get involved with offensive chanting, poor behaviour both on and off the pitch as well as an agenda away from stadiums altogether is very small.
There is a still a lot of value in football for fans that want to go along and see a game and just watch how their team are playing. These supporters need to have confidence in the authorities to deal with this small percentage so football can get back to being about the football and not about a cancer victim being abused or a tragedy in a city being poorly remembered.
Liverpool and Manchester United have a rivalry that is born out of trying to win more League Championships and more European Cups than the other. It can never be attributed to the Munich or Hillsborough disasters that some sections of fans prefer to remember more than anything else. As for Mark Halsey, referees expect stick and verbal abuse but this was taken to another level and thank God the authorities are getting involved so a good official isn’t put off of the game.