Make peace! Gerrard tells Suarez to shake hands with Evra to set tone for United game
21:01 GMT, 22 September 2012
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will appeal to striker Luis Suarez to shake the hand of Manchester United adversary Patrice Evra and help prevent 'Hillsborough' day at Anfield being overshadowed by bad blood between supporters of the two clubs.
Gerrard, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was among 96 victims in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, believes a conciliatory gesture between Suarez and Evra – who clashed in a racism controversy last season – will set the right tone for a highly charged game that will be beamed around the world.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that 'Evra definitely plays', and he insisted: 'United have no problems with the handshakes.'
History: Patrice Evra (right) and Luis Suarez (left) clash at Anfield last October
The feud continues: Suarez snubs Evra's hand at Old Trafford in February
When Gerrard was asked if he would speak personally to Suarez about the pre-match ritual, he was unequivocal. 'Yes,' said the 32-year-old Anfield skipper. 'My advice to him would be to shake hands and move on. Suarez will make his own decision, of course. But I'd like to think he would want to move on himself.
'Those two players could be the key. The handshakes are going to be at the beginning of the game and they've got a responsibility to start the day off on a good note.'
The clubs and police forces from both cities have been working flat out to ensure an emotional occasion is not overshadowed by provocative chanting, either towards the 1958 Munich air crash, which killed eight United players among the 23 victims, or Hillsborough.
'If it's a fantastic match, if there is a handshake before the game and there's no vile chanting, it will be a great advert to everyone around the world,' added Gerrard. 'There are going to be millions watching so it's a great opportunity to send out the right message from the fans, from the players and from the game itself.'
Big day ahead: Steven Gerrard (left) in training ahead of the match on Sunday
Decision to make: Suarez at Melwood
It is the first fixture at Anfield since the report into the disaster confirmed that Liverpool fans were not to blame. But Suarez and Evra's simmering feud last year led to the Uruguay striker being banned for eight matches after he admitted saying 'Negrito' to the United player, a word he claimed was not meant in a hostile context.
Liverpool officials believe Suarez is prepared to shake Evra's hand before kick-off but Gerrard does not want to take any chances, given that the forward gave a similar impression before the fixture in February only to perform a U-turn and walk past Evra.
If Suarez defies the wishes of his club and his captain, there will be questions about his future given the strength of feeling from Liverpool's American owners that there must be closure after last season's PR disaster.
Ferguson has written a letter to United supporters entering Anfield today while Merseyside Police have pledged a zero-tolerance policy towards fans who make offensive chants or gestures.
Emotional day: Sunday's match will be the first at Anfield since the explosive revelations on the Hillsborough disaster were revealed earlier this week
Captains Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic will release 96 red balloons to commemorate the Hillsborough victims while the crowd, which will include Liverpool's former manager Kenny Dalglish, will also see United ambassador Sir Bobby Charlton lay a wreath. A fans' mosaic at the stadium will promote 'Justice for the 96'.