The Hillsborough independent report is more important than a handshake, insists Manchester United’s Patrice Evra after he acknowledged Luis Suarez’s gesture yesterday.
The French fullback was embroiled in a race row with the Uruguayan striker almost one year ago – leading the FA to ban Suarez for eight games after he was found guilty of racial abuse.
But after Suarez refused to shake the hand of the 31-year-old earlier this year, the two ended their personal dispute to mark Liverpool’s first home game since the report revealed that club fans were not responsible for the deaths of 96 supporters 23 years ago.
“The most important thing was respect,” said Evra. “It was a game between two big clubs.
“There was a big tragedy and people were talking about a handshake but the stories of the clubs are bigger than that.
“If I hadn’t shaken Suarez’s hand, I would not be respecting the stories of the clubs.
“In the end I am glad this time he shook my hand. More importantly, it was important to respect the families. It was not an easy day.”
Sir Alex Ferguson and Brendan Rodgers had partnered one another in pleas to both sets of fans to respect the importance of the day ahead of the predictably hostile tie.
But despite United fans joining in the pre-match applause for the 96 fans, the high-tempered affair ended in small groups of supporters chanting ‘Always the victims’ and ‘murderers’.
Jonjon Shelvey was red carded five minutes before half-time, and Robin van Persie converted a penalty to overturn the lead Steven Gerrard’s superb volley gave Liverpool in the 46th minute.
Twitter and Facebook were bombarded by disgraceful messages of hatred and bitterness by both sets of fans and Rodgers is adamant that the clubs will continue the battle against anyone let them down.
“What was done at the end I cannot comment on as I didn’t hear or see anything,” Rodgers said, who is yet to win his first league game in charge of the club.
“There is an intense rivalry here and you don’t want that to end – it is all a part of what makes this the biggest game in British football.
“But it is on the field where competition should be and everything else, songs from Liverpool or Manchester supporters, any of us that have any human decency don’t like to hear that.
“The fight will go on if there is a continuation of that but certainly at this club the work that has gone on in the last couple of weeks is something I am very proud of, and the tributes today were fantastic.”