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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is to issue a personal plea to fans travelling to Anfield for this weekend's Premier League game with Liverpool to "stand with our great neighbours" as they pay tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

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Liverpool are playing their first match at Anfield since the Hillsborough Independent Panel cleared the club's fans of any role in the deaths of 96 fans during the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

And while the two most successful teams in British football have a longstanding and often bitter rivalry, Ferguson has called on United fans to respect the tributes set to take place prior to kick-off.

In a move that underlines the significance of the fixture, away fans arriving at the Anfield turnstiles will be presented with a letter written by the Manchester United manager reminding fans that the clubs' rivalry "should never be based on personal hatred.

"Our rivalry with Liverpool is based on a determination to come out on top - a wish to see us crowned the best against a team that held that honour for so long," Ferguson wrote.

The United manager then expressed his sympathy for the 96 victims "who went to watch their team try and reach the FA Cup final and never came back.

"What happened to them should wake the conscience of everyone connected with the game.

"Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice. I know I can count on you to stand with us in the best traditions of the best fans in the game."


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