As the clock ticks down to what will be certainly an emotive and potentially an explosive fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United, it is worth recalling the words of Clement Attlee, a Prime Minister whose passion was cricket rather than football. Writing to the Manchester-born chairman of the Labour Party, Harold Laski, Attlee commented: "A period of silence from you would be welcome."
There needs to be a period of silence between both sets of supporters before Manchester United go to Anfield on Sunday. There is no good time to ratchet up tensions between the two greatest clubs in English football but the first Saturday after the Hillsborough verdicts were delivered was an especially witless time for a few United fans to start chanting: "You're always the victims; it's never your fault."
Some would argue, as the eloquent chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (Must), Duncan Drasdo, did, that it was not a specifically anti-Hillsborough song. Its genesis lies in the Heysel disaster, a tragedy for which, however wretched the state of the stadium in Brussels was for the 1985 European Cup final, Liverpool's supporters do share a significant and grim slice of blame. Nevertheless, this was not the time to be singing it. The fact that Manchester United instantly issued a statement condemning it tells its own story.
Must said in its statement that attempts to suggest the chants were anti-Hillsborough were "irresponsible, given the forthcoming fixture between the two clubs and, furthermore, risks needlessly upsetting the bereaved families further at a time when they are understandably trying to find closure. This is the time for supporters of these two great clubs to represent their clubs with the integrity and honour that our glorious history deserves." That last sentence should be the end of the matter.
There was, naturally enough, a period of silence from Paul Scholes after he celebrated his 700th match for Manchester United by ghosting through the Wigan defence to seize on a loose ball palmed away by Ali Al-Habsi and drive it into the roof of the net. Before his intervention, the game had been in the balance. Afterwards, the only question was the size of United's victory.
It was left to Gary Neville, in his Sunday newspaper column, to sum up the shy, brilliantly gifted lad from Middleton's contribution to the game, urging that next time anyone comes to Old Trafford, they should simply watch Scholes.
"There might be no MBEs or OBEs," Neville said. "But every single team-mate would say he is the best they have ever played with. And every player he has ever played against, including Xavi and Zinedine Zidane, would say he is the best midfielder they have ever faced."
Neville added that Scholes would be embarrassed by the comparisons. There were new comparisons yesterday, not with the greats of Barcelona and Real Madrid but with perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson's least-heralded purchase of a frantic summer. The 18-year-old Nick Powell, signed from Crewe, completed the rout of a Wigan side that had displayed considerable first-half grit with a fabulous 20-yard drive. He had been on the pitch for a matter of minutes.
Powell was born in 1994, the year Scholes made his debut, and his reactions were reminiscent of his great team-mate. "My dad will keep me in touch with reality, I'll tell you that," he said.
"I am just going to go home, have this great feeling and keep myself on the ground. When I first came here, it scared me a little because I am only used to playing in front of 5,000 people but I have to say it is a great atmosphere."
His debut for Crewe had been rather less auspicious, a 3-2 defeat at Cheltenham, and it had taken Powell 14 months to score his first goal for a club that, pound for pound of investment, has produced more talent than any other. However, as Scholes has so often done, he made playing for Manchester United seem easy.
Galatasaray stay on top
Galatasaray warmed up for Wednesday's Champions League trip to Old Trafford with a convincing 4-0 victory at Antalyaspor to remain a point clear at the top of the Super Lig. Fatih Terim's side went ahead through former Bolton Wanderers striker Johan Elmander after 10 minutes before Nordin Amrabat added a second before the interval. The hosts were reduced to 10 men before goals from Burak Yilmaz and Umut Bulut secured the points for the defending champions.
Booked: MU Büttner, Welbeck. Wig Boyce, McArthur.
Man of match Scholes.
Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).
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