The meeting of England’s two most celebrated football clubs – Manchester United and Liverpool – last Sunday was once again marred by malicious taunting about past tragedies.
In a game that should epitomise all that is great about football some of the game’s dismal realities refuse to go away.
The fixture is the most eagerly anticipated of the year by both sets of fans and players alike despite both clubs having fierce derby rivals – Manchester City and Everton – in their own cities.
The struggle for dominance between the pair has always been fierce and has only intensified since Sir Alex Ferguson promised to knock Liverpool “off their perch”.
These footballing giants are however far more similar in many ways than either contingent of supporters would care to admit.
The two most dominant forces in the English game have combined for 37 league titles, eight European Cups and 18 FA Cups.
Both are accustomed to success, both possess a rich and glorious history and both have a penchant for unearthing legendary Scottish managers.
Another similarity however is both have been struck by dreadful tragedy in their past.
The stadium disasters at Hillsborough and Heysel and the Munich air disaster are terrible scars on the history of both clubs.
Many innocent victims lost their lives in these catastrophes and the horrific chants that a cruel minority sing on match-days are a dark stain on both clubs and an insult to the victims and their families.
United and Liverpool have made repeated efforts to put an end to the disgusting vitriol that permeates, to the horror of most, during these fixtures.
It was hoped that a watershed day may have arrived on the last day the two clubs met, on September 23.
It was the first game at Anfield since an independent report revealed the shocking truth regarding the investigation of the Hillsborough disaster.
Both clubs made a genuine concerted effort to ensure that respect and dignity was shown to the victims.
Fittingly, two of the clubs’ most influential figures and ones who had been personally affected by past tragedy, were involved in the pre-match ceremony.
Sir Bobby Charlton was in the plane crash that claimed 23 lives in Munich in 1958 while Steven Gerrard lost his 10-year-old cousin Jon Paul Gilhooley at Hillsborough.
Charlton presented former Reds striker Ian Rush with flowers, later to be laid at the Hillsborough memorial.
The captains of both sides on the day, Gerrard for Liverpool and Ryan Giggs for United, released 96 red balloons to commemorate the victims who lost their lives.
Though the majority of fans in attendance on the day behaved impeccably throughout, idiocy prevailed after the game as a minority engaged in the familiar sick taunting.
A couple of Liverpool making aeroplane gestures prompted a section of United fans launch into their old songs about ‘murderers’ and ‘victims’.
This taunting between supporters was unfortunately on display again at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Once again the bulk of fans behaved respectfully but, once again, a minority saw fit to make malevolent reference to past tragedies.
Class, dignity and compassion are virtues that both clubs try their best to observe but they and the silent majorities of both sets of support are belittled by an inconsiderate minority.
Who started what is often the first question that springs to mind following these incidents but the more important one is – how can we put a stop to it once and for all?
Picture courtesy of Ben Sutherland, with thanks