By Simon Stone
MANCHESTER UNITED fans have joined the chorus of condemnation at the shocking attack on the ambulance transporting Alan Smith from Anfield on Saturday - but urged supporters of both sides to keep the incident in perspective.
Medical staff have expressed their revulsion at the behaviour of the Liverpool fans who threw missiles at the ambulance and directed chants of ‘Munich scum’ towards Smith, who was receiving treatment after breaking his leg during United’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat.
The incident followed some sickening chants inside Anfield after Smith had collapsed in agony after blocking John Arne Riise’s free-kick late in the game.
Although the majority of Liverpool fans quickly realised the seriousness of the problem and applauded the England international as he was stretchered off the field, the initial reaction, plus the disgraceful scenes outside the ground, seem certain to heighten an already hateful rivalry between the clubs.
Liverpool and United quickly joined forces to express their disgust at the "mindless actions of a few idiots", who "are not real fans of football".
Liverpool Supporters’ Club spokesman Les Lawson has expressed a similar sentiment, while his United counterpart Mark Longden has called for a sense of perspective when judging the incident in the light of the rivalry between the two clubs.
"I cannot condone behaviour of this kind but I will not condemn the vast majority of Liverpool fans for the actions of a very small minority," said Longden, chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association.
"If you look back through history, there have been similar, isolated, but wholly unacceptable acts from both sets of supporters, so in a sense it is not really a surprise.
"But we have to be careful not to get the whole thing out of proportion.
"There is a historic rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool which people should not attempt to diminish. Those who go too far should be dealt with by the authorities but without tribal loyalties, there would be no game."