Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has called for a sense of perspective ahead of what is certain to be an emotionally-charged clash with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
The Premier League encounter, always one of the most fiercely-contested in the English calendar, is the first home game for the Merseyside club following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report into the 1989 disaster.
Liverpool are planning to honour the memory of the 96 supporters who lost their lives during the FA Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest, but there are concerns any tributes could be overshadowed by the actions of a minority of visiting supporters.
Centre-back Vidic has joined Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson in issuing a plea for all involved in Sunday’s game to show respect for each other, and knows the eyes of the world will be on Anfield.
“Football is important, but it is never more important than life, any life,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in England or Serbia or any part of the world, but football has had to deal with many tragedies too.
Be an example
“There is a lot of history with these two clubs. We have some history as well, we have some tragedies, just like Liverpool. We should respect each other because we are big clubs and clubs that are respected in the world.
“We have to show an example and be on top of the bad situation and behave well and, I would say, be an example.
“At Anfield, we are on a test again, but I think Manchester Unitedfans are always an example of how supporters should behave. I don’t have doubts that there will be a great atmosphere and there will be a good mood and they will support their players.
“I would just tell them to support their team. I don’t have doubts that they will support us well. I have read about Hillsborough. It’s a long time ago, but most important is that we have to respect any life and I think that we will do it on that day.
“I don’t think it will be different for Liverpool fans. I don’t know why we have to talk at all about the bad image. I agree we have to go to the people and say don’t do anything bad.
“But they are coming there to enjoy the football and to support their teams. I’ve been here for seven years and I think our fans always behave well and they will do it again.”
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and United defender Patrice Evra will be under greater scrutiny than their team-mates in the wake of the racism storm of last season and the missed handshake between the duo at Old Trafford.
Vidic does not want to give too much thought to the pre-match meeting between the duo, with it widely expected that they will not cause further controversy on such a sensitive occasion, and admits he and his team-mates must focus more on the game.
“To be fair, I don’t want to think about that handshake,” he said. “If they shake hands, they shake hands – I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world.
“It’s important to not do any stupid things in the game, to go there and play football – what we dream of, to play that derby and to be all about the football, not about the fighting or any other things.
“We want to focus on the game. We have a theme, what happened in history about the fans and we have to respect that day. Obviously we cannot come with any other issues, we just come there to play football.”