There was a lot ugly about Manchester United’s trip to Anfield yesterday. The mood was set early with the 5th minute concession in the 0-4 loss to the club’s oldest rival, but it was exacerbated by an ugly chant that stains the reputation of the club and the fanbase.
“It was only one or two” “I didn’t hear it on the tele” “it’s not linked to Hillsborough”. It was constant throughout the second half until they scurried out on 70mins. Any word @GNev2 @Carra23 @SkySports? https://t.co/2ozQI4A0v6— James Sutton (@thejamessutton) April 20, 2022
“The Sun was right, you’re murders” sang the United end at Anfield, just a few days removed from the services commemorating the Hillsbrough Disaster and the 97 victims who needlessly died due to the negligence of the South Yorkshire Police, and were then targeted by a smear campaign that blamed the victims for the disaster for decades before an inquiry cleared them and exposed the smear efforts. It’s an ugly song that’s popped up too often before, and is especially ugly considering Liverpool fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone on 7 minutes in a show of support for Cristiano Ronaldo the day after he lost a newborn.
Suffering an embarrassing defeat and humiliation is no excuse for abandoning human decency. We need to do better to stop this, but unfortunately it goes further than the fanbase as the club and its players have had no trouble going to The Sun and giving them rights for interviews and features in recent years. The relationship was extended as well via Ed Woodward’s appointment of Neil Ashton, a former journalist of The Sun, for public relations work at the club. Club captain Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford, players who should know better, both took part in interviews with the publication whose atrocious coverage of Hillsbrough should make any football fan’s blood boil. The disregard for safety in both policing and stadium handling could have happened to any fanbase.
There were ugly displays at Wembley from Manchester City fans too during a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims at the FA Cup semi-final. Both Manchester Clubs released statements remembering the victims and Pep Guardiola stated clearly that it doesn’t reflect his club, but the fact of the matter is that these gross displays do represent the clubs and communities. It’s a responsibility of all of us to do better in calling out and stopping this.
"There are moments in football where all the rivalries should be put aside"— ITV Football (@itvfootball) April 16, 2022
"These people do not represent who we are"
Jurgen Klopp & Pep Guardiola spoke after some Man City fans disrupted the minute's silence for the Hillsborough victims. pic.twitter.com/QVOeUqSbdB
The tribalism in sports can be dangerous, and it should never extend to levels of dehumanization and smearing. It’s embarrassing and shouldn’t be brushed aside, especially by a fanbase that claims to be representing football fans in their push for 50+1 and more fan representation in football. Hillsbrough and the slanderous reporting that followed it is a terrible injustice that warrants unity in that regard as well. It’s time to do better.