LONDON: Michael Carrick has pleaded with Manchester United fans to keep the peace when his side face bitter rivals Liverpool in an emotionally charged clash at Anfield this weekend.
United’s visits to Liverpool are always potentially explosive given the animosity between supporters, but the build-up to this season’s clash is especially tense as it is the club’s first home game since the release of an explosive report into the Hillsborough tragedy.
The report cleared Liverpool fans of any blame for the deaths of 96 of their own supporters during crushing on the terraces before and during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.
But United fans, who have often taunted their rivals about Hillsborough in the past, engaged in anti-Liverpool chants during last weekend’s win over Wigan, raising fears they would do the same at Anfield and potentially spark serious crowd disorder.
Carrick, who scored United’s winner in their 1-0 Champions League victory over Galatasaray in midweek, admits there is huge responsibility on both players and fans alike to ensure there are no ugly incidents on Sunday.
“After what has gone on there is added responsibility on the players for everything to go smoothly. We will be doing our utmost to make sure that is the case,” Carrick said.
“It is a heated game because it is a great football match. It is a rivalry of two great clubs with great histories and traditions. It is what makes the game so special, a classic game worldwide.
“Hopefully it will be a cracking game of football because it is vital that after Sunday, everyone is talking about the football.”
While all eyes will be on any potential flashpoints at Anfield, the fixture is crucial for both teams and for vastly different reasons.
Second placed United have failed to win any of their last five trips to Liverpool, but they look to have a golden opportunity to end that run against Brendan Rodgers’ side, who are struggling at the wrong end of the table after opening the season without a win in their first four league games.
Also on Sunday, champions Manchester City will aim to bounce back from their misery in Madrid when they host in-form Arsenal.
City threw away a 2-1 lead in the closing minutes against Real Madrid, eventually losing 3-2 in the Bernabeu on Tuesday to open their Champions League campaign on a low note.
However, Yaya Toure, City’s midfield powerhouse, believes the experience of taking on a European giant like Real will be invaluable in the long run.
“I think we played against a fantastic team. Real Madrid have a big history, they are a big club. It was quite good for us to play against them to see what level we are at now,” Toure said.
While City were losing in Madrid, third-placed Arsenal secured their third successive victory in all competitions thanks to a 2-1 win over French champions Montpellier.
Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta believes one of the keys to that run is the good form of unheralded full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs.
“I think they’ve been very consistent,” Arteta said.
“Gibbsy has been playing really well. I think he’s finding himself more comfortable going forwards.
“Carl’s had four or five games under his belt and you can see he’s confident.
“Against Montpellier he put a brilliant cross in for Gervinho to score the goal. That’s what we need because we’re missing players.”
Elsewhere, Chelsea, held by Juventus in midweek, will look to secure their first win in four games in all competitions when they host Stoke, while bottom of the table Southampton bid for their first point of the season against Aston Villa.
Fixtures (1400GMT unless stated):
Chelsea v Stoke, Southampton v Aston Villa, Swansea v Everton (1145GMT), West Brom v Reading, West Ham v Sunderland, Wigan v Fulham
Liverpool v Man Utd (1230GMT), Newcastle v Norwich, Man City v Arsenal (1500GMT), Tottenham v QPR (1500GMT)