Mon September 24, 2012 9:17am
PLAYERS and fans from Liverpool and its arch-rival Manchester United paid a poignant tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster before their match yesterday.
The words "The Truth", "Justice" and "96" were spelled out by spectators holding red and white cards in Liverpool's first home match since a report absolved the club's fans of blame for the 1989 disaster in which 96 supporters died.
The tone was set when Manchester United's players emerged on to the pitch at Anfield with "96" on the backs of their tracksuits, earning loud applause from the 44,000-strong crowd.
Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton presented ex-Liverpool striker Ian Rush with red roses before Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard and United counterpart Ryan Giggs released 96 red balloons, one for each of the dead.
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez shook hands in the pre-match lineup with United's Senegalese-born French defender Patrice Evra, who he racially abused last season, ensuring the incident did not overshadow the commemorations.
United won the match 2-1 after a typically contentious encounter between the two sides, but manager Sir Alex Ferguson said the afternoon had been about far more than football.
"Liverpool did a fantastic job today, the fans were terrific and I don't think there can be any complaint on that part," he said.
"It was a nice touch Bobby Charlton giving the bouquet to Ian Rush and it demonstrates these two clubs can do things with unity and then we got on with the game.
"There was ferocity and it was intense and it has been a good day for football."
Ferguson and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had appealed for calm ahead of the match amid fears the tensions which always accompany the meeting of England's two most successful teams would spill over.
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