Why Erik ten Hag and Jurgen Klopp gave joint statement on tragedy chanting
The rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool pits England's two most successful clubs against one another, sparking unforgettable matches and moments since their first meeting in 1894.
However, the fierce enmity which defines this contest has morphed into an ugly and hateful dialogue between both fanbases. The recent trend of 'tragedy chants' has become so prolific that Erik ten Hag and Jurgen Klopp, the managers of Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, felt compelled to release a joint statement condemning this behaviour.
As the two teams prepare to meet for the 211th time on Sunday afternoon, here's everything you need to know about a rare topic of agreement for these eternal rivals.
What is 'tragedy chanting'?
'Tragedy chanting' refers to the act of one set of supporters mocking a past disaster which has afflicted their rivals. This can take the form of chants with cruel lyrics hissed by fans inside the stadium, graffiti scrawled in the ground of the abused team or the surrounding area or online abuse.
Manchester United fans have previously been abused about the Munich air crash in 1958. Eight players and three staff members of Sir Matt Busby's famed side died during a plane crash at a German airport on their way back from a European Cup tie.
Liverpool's abusers often focus on the Heysel Stadium disaster or the Hillsborough tragedy.
Shortly before the 1985 European Cup final, which Liverpool contested with Juventus, 39 supporters perished and 600 were injured as a wall in the Heysel stadium collapsed.
Less than four years later, it was ultimately determined that 97 people died as a result of a crush which took place during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium.
What did Ten Hag and Klopp's joint statement say?
The two managers both lauded the passion and intensity of the rivalry but stressed that there is a clear limit to the enmity. As Ten Hag said: "There are lines that should not be crossed." Klopp echoed the Dutchman by outlining: "When the rivalry becomes too intense it can go to places that are not good for anyone and we do not need this."
Ten Hag explained what he deemed to cross the line. "It is unacceptable to use the loss of life - in relation to any tragedy - to score points, and it is time for it to stop," United's manager demanded. "Those responsible tarnish not only the reputation of our clubs but also, importantly, the reputation of themselves, the fans, and our great cities.
"On behalf of myself, our players, and our staff, we ask our fans to focus on supporting the team on Sunday, and representing our club in the right way."
Klopp, whose team host Manchester United at Anfield this Sunday, said: "We do want the noise, we do want the occasion to be partisan and we do want the atmosphere to be electric. What we do not want is anything that goes beyond this and this applies especially to the kind of chants that have no place in football. If we can keep the passion and lose the poison it will be so much better for everyone."
Why did Ten Hag and Klopp give a joint statement?
Both managers could have issued separate statements which preached the exact same sentiment but sought a greater impact through a joint appeal for decency to prevail.
After Manchester United's previous trip to Anfield last April, the club condemned the "completely unacceptable" songs which were heard during United's 4-0 defeat. Liverpool lamented the “recent rise in vile chants” a few days later but these separated releases have failed to halt a hateful habit.
Manchester City fans were also accused of performing "vile chants" when Pep Guardiola's side lost 1-0 at Anfield in October. Liverpool again condemned the behaviour, which included offensive vandalism inside the stadium, and City issued an apology to a Hillsborough survivors' group.
With change hard to spark, United and Liverpool have joined forces with what both clubs described as a "heartfelt plea".
The joint statement concluded: "Together, Liverpool and Manchester United want to show the special and positive side of this wonderful rivalry between two great football clubs with proud, but at times, tragic histories."