Ferguson hopes for an end to taunts


Soccer:Alex Ferguson has called for Manchester United and Liverpool supporters to end the chanting that scars encounters between the teams.

United head to Anfield in nine days' time for what will be Liverpool's first home Premier League match since the dramatic findings relating to the Hillsborough disaster were released.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel's report cleared Liverpool supporters of any blame.

The 1989 tragedy resulted in the deaths of 96 supporters and has been used to abuse Liverpool fans by a minority of their Old Trafford counterparts, who themselves have been goaded by a minority over the Munich air disaster in 1958, when eight United players were among 21 people killed as a plane crashed on take-off at Munich.

While the intense rivalry that exists between England's two most successful clubs ensures they will never get along particularly well, Ferguson feels there is a boundary that should not be crossed.

"You would hope that maybe this is a line in the sand in terms of how the supporters behave with one another," he said. "We are two great clubs and we should understand each other's problems in the past. Certainly the reputation of both clubs doesn't deserve it.

"The fact we are playing them after the findings we have been reading about in the last couple of days does bring a focus to it. Both clubs have suffered fatalities through football. You hope that fans do behave themselves and support their team and that will be the end of it."

Darren Fletcher returns to the Manchester United squad for Saturday's league encounter against Wigan with Ferguson believing the Scot is well on course for a successful return to first-team action.

It does not seem likely Fletcher will play any part at Old Trafford, but merely travelling with his team-mates represents a significant step forward in the midfield's bid to conquer a chronic bowel condition.

The problem has plagued Fletcher since March 2011, although it was not made public until December after the Scotland international tried to maintain his career. In the end it was decided he needed an extended rest from the game, during which time he has been doing some coaching with United's junior teams.

Fletcher, 28, has stepped up his recovery programme this season though and featured in another reserve match at Stalybridge Celtic. The next step forward is a place in Ferguson's squad, and it cannot be too long before his senior re-appearance.

"He is in the squad, simply because I think it can give him a boost," said Ferguson. "It charts the progress the lad has made. The next step we should take is when we can involve him in a game in our first team.

"At this moment in time, everything is looking fine for him. We understand the type of condition he has to deal with and it could change. But hopefully he has managed to conquer all that in terms of his diet and how he handles it."

Fletcher has been named in United's Champions League squad, so is eligible for Wednesday night's opening group game against Galatasaray at Old Trafford. A week after that, United take on Newcastle at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup, which could offer another opportunity.

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