There were unpleasant exchanges between Liverpool and Manchester United fans at the end of yesterday's 2-1 defeat for Brendan Rodgers' side at Anfield yesterday, after a fragile peace during the game which began with tributes to the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
United supporters sang "Always the victim, it's never your fault", "Murderers" and "Justice for Heysel" when they were kept in at the end of the game. While United fans would claim all those chants refer to the 1985 Heysel disaster, rather than Hillsborough, they are undoubtedly provocative.
Witnesses said the United supporters were responding to two Liverpool supporters who had stayed behind as the ground cleared and made aeroplane gestures at them – a reference to the 1958 Munich air disaster. Around the 12th minute of the game, United fans had sung "Where's your famous Munich song?" to the Liverpool fans.
Before the match, United's first win at Anfield since December 2007, Sir Bobby Charlton presented flowers to Ian Rush on the pitch. The captains Ryan Giggs and Steven Gerrard released 96 balloons. There was no minute's silence but mosaics depicting "96", "The Truth" and "Justice" were held up during the playing of "You'll Never Walk Alone". United fans sang their own songs throughout.
The match, decided by Robin van Persie's penalty, was the first played by Liverpool at Anfield since the release of the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which exonerated the supporters of any blame for the 1989 disaster and made startling claims about the extent of police and emergency services' failure on the day and subsequent cover-up.
Liverpool had Jonjo Shelvey sent off in the first half for a clash with Jonny Evans that, although reckless, Rodgers claimed should have also earned the United defender a red card. Rodgers said: "If Shelvey gets sent off for having both feet off the ground then Evans has to get sent off for that as well if you watch the replays.
"Jonjo is coming in from the side, it is a tackle the player has to go for and one the United player has to go for, but the Liverpool player can't get sent off and the United one stay on the field. I thought it was very harsh and that was how it was throughout the game as a number of poor decisions went against us."
Shelvey pointed and shouted at Sir Alex Ferguson as he went down the tunnel, something the United manager described as "stupidity". Ferguson said: "I think he [Shelvey] was trying to blame me. Once he looks at it he can apologise if he likes. I think he should do that. He is responsible for his own actions, there is no question about that."
Shelvey subsequently tweeted that he had apologised to Ferguson, adding "just where I come from people don't grass people up to get someone sent off". He later deleted the tweet.
Ferguson said: "It was a clear red card. It was a dangerous attempt to get the ball, actually he didn't go for the ball. Jonny Evans did and got it and the boy has gone in dangerously. I don't think there was any other decision the referee [Mark Halsey] could have given."
Rodgers also disputed the penalty given to United for a foul on Antonio Valencia by Glen Johnson. Van Persie scored the decisive spot-kick after Rafael da Silva had scored the equaliser following Steven Gerrard's goal. Daniel Agger was substituted with possible medial ligament damage. Fabio Borini was also withdrawn with a badly swollen ankle.
Rodgers had no knowledge of the post-match chants. Ferguson said: "We have to put up with some things when we've come here but Liverpool are nowhere near as bad as some other clubs with this aeroplane stuff. We have had to endure that for years and years.
"It is a sick part of society but it is only a minority from every club. They all have an element who can disgrace their club. It has been a great day for us, surprisingly."
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