Nemanja Vidic: 'Both Liverpool and Manchester United have had tragedies, now it is the time for respect'

United captain, who grew up in war-torn Serbia and lost his best friend at 20, calls on supporters to honour the Hillsborough victims and rebuild ties at Anfield

Nemanja Vidic has lived enough and seen enough to know about other people's tragedies. When his home town of Uzice was bombarded in the Balkan conflict, he only managed to escape being drafted into the army because he played for Red Star Belgrade, a source of national pride. He was 20 when he lost his best friend Vladimir Dimitrijevic to a heart attack sustained on the pitch when they were both playing for the team.

All of which means that the Manchester United captain, who with Liverpool counterpart Steven Gerrard will release 96 balloons across the Anfield turf when their two teams meet on Sunday, can talk with meaning about how the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel elevate a football match between two inveterate foes beyond the realm of petty chants and rivalries.

"Football is important but it is never more important than life, any life," Vidic said. "It doesn't matter if it's in England or Serbia or any part of the world. I think, over the years, supporters in England have come across with respect after the many tragedies. I think we are on a test again. I think Man United fans are always an example of how they should behave."

The proof that eloquence is not guaranteed to provide a lead for others to follow came at Old Trafford six days ago when Sir Alex Ferguson's reminder that "there are always opportunities to show your greatness and I think this is another one" came to nothing. The Old Trafford chants about Liverpool victimhood during the game against Wigan a mere 24 hours later were wretched.

Yet there is growing cause for optimism where Sunday's game – the first at Anfield since the panel report laid bare 23 years of institutional failings and cover-up – is concerned. Far more than this week's dialogue between the United chief executive, David Gill, and the Liverpool managing director, Ian Ayre, the signals from supporter representatives reflect how any who take Hillsborough in vain will find themselves ostracised.

An editorial in the September issue of United magazine Red Issue, published this week, states that "every time the police, CPS [Crown Prosecution Service], FA, media and establishment try it on in future, the words 'Hillsborough enquiry' will ensure the world will have to cock a more sympathetic ear, because it has been proved beyond doubt what these dark forces are capable of trying to do, in concert, to save their own hides and feather their own nests, at football supporters' expense."

The message is clear and the award-winning Anfield Wrap podcast's inclusion of a Manchester United fan, Steve Anderson, in its own broadcast this week underlined how the key people are delivering the messages. The Manchester United Supporters' Trust reminded supporters yesterday that the '"always the victim" chant "may be perceived" by Liverpool supporters and others as "inappropriate on Sunday".

For some of the United players a disaster which occurred nearly quarter of a century ago is too distant to comprehend. Luis Nani did not seem much aware when tackled on the topic late on Wednesday night. "You what? I heard something," he said. "I don't know. Maybe," scurrying off with half a reply to the question of whether the emotion of the occasion may give Brendan Rodgers' side strength.

Vidic knows the significance, even though he was a seven-year-old and Uzice belonged to a peaceful Yugoslavia in April 1989. "I have read more about that," he said. "It's a long time ago and I don't want to [go] back that far but I think most important is that we have to respect any life. We [would] love some people to respect the players."

Sunday's layers of potential conflict are uncomfortably deep. The presence of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra on the same pitch is another of them. It will be up to the referee, the two captains and two managers in their 12.30pm pre-match meeting on Sunday to decide whether Liverpool will walk "across" Man United to shake hands or whether they stand still and United walk down the Liverpool line. The custom is for the home team to do the walk "to welcome the visitors to their home." At Old Trafford last season, it was decided to reverse this and for visitors Liverpool to do the walk – because there is less chance of a "moving" player – Suarez – being embarrassed than a static one, who could get a number of people refusing to shake. Evra was escorted around Wednesday night's mixed zone by a United official, just in case he was tempted to talk.

"If they shake hands, they shake hands – I don't think it's the most important thing in the world," Vidic said. "I think it's important to not do any stupid things in the game, to go there and play football."

He has his own history with Liverpool. He was dismissed three times in 13 months against Rafael Benitez's side, from September 2008, when Fernando Torres had the mark on him. The selection of Mark Halsey as Sunday's referee – a man highly capable of the necessary perspective and sense – is deeply gratifying, though Vidic still harbours some indignation about those dismissals.

"I have had two or three times two yellow cards," he said. "I think the referees are under big pressure there because the stadium is tight and it's hostile. Obviously one good thing was two yellows I had in 87 and 89 minutes, which was not that bad."

Vidic questions whether the panel's publication has damaged the image of football. "I don't know why we have to talk at all about the 'bad image'," he said and the Football Association certainly feels United could have done no more to ensure respect on Sunday. Some things fall beyond anyone's control, though.

"There is a lot of history with these two clubs," Vidic reflected. "We have some history as well. We have some tragedies – and they have too. We should respect each other... We have to show an example, be on top of the bad situation, behave well."


Get Adobe Flash player


peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam