Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre plays down handshake between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra

 

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has played down the significance of the pre-match handshake between forward Luis Suarez and Manchester United's Patrice Evra this weekend.

Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Evra during the corresponding fixture at Anfield last October and the row was further stoked by the Uruguayan's failure to shake Evra's hand before the return match at Old Trafford in February.

But with Saturday's latest encounter between the two clubs at Anfield already certain to be a highly emotional affair in the wake of last week's damning revelations concerning the Hillsborough disaster, Ayre says the issue over whether the players shake hands or not is not at the forefront of his mind.

Ayre told talkSPORT: "We will be doing a handshake as there always is and, as regards to the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra thing, I think it's just a non-story for this day.

"Despite what the media says, nobody has gone and told Luis Suarez what to do.

"Luis is a grown-up, as I'm sure is Patrice Evra, and I think those players, like every other player on the pitch that day and everybody in the stadium, will recognise this isn't a day to talk about who is going to shake whose hand.

"This is about everybody being together for a much more important cause."

The club understandably want the focus to be elsewhere on what will be a poignant afternoon, the first game at Anfield since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report into the 1989 tragedy in Sheffield.

There have been repeated calls from Liverpool and United, with the latter's manager Sir Alex Ferguson particularly vocal, for fans on both sides to show respect, especially with regard to past tragedies.

Tasteless chants about Hillsborough and the 1958 Munich air disaster have been heard in the past and the clubs want it stopped.

Ayre said: "It will be an emotional and big game for everybody.

"Obviously this is our first home game since the announcement and findings and it's a great opportunity for our fans to pay their respects and in many ways for everybody to pay respect to our fans.

"As much as the families and everyone else fought for this, it goes without saying that our fans have stuck with them and helped with that support throughout, so it's an important day for everyone.

"This is about using the stage to show the world how important this was and how important an announcement it was.

"It's ironic really that it comes with our biggest game of the season so that is in some ways quite nice because the world will be watching.

"We have massive respect for what Manchester United went through with their own tragedy and I remember in Kenny Dalglish's book he made the point that one of the first people to call him after the Hillsborough disaster was Sir Alex Ferguson, and that says it all.

"Whatever happens on the pitch, we are all rivals, but off the pitch at times like this everybody comes together."

PA

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