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Tue 5 Feb 2008 07:47 AM

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Ferdinand confident fans will respect Munich silence

Rio Ferdinand confident fans will respect minute's silence in memory of players who died in the Munich air crash.

Rio Ferdinand is confident England's fans will scrupuously respect a planned minute's silence in memory of the Manchester United players who died in the Munich air crash, 50 years ago on Wednesday.

Fears that a section of England fans would disrupt the silence had led the Football Association to consider a minute's applause instead, although that was ultimately deemed inappropriate given the nature of the events being commemorated.

Ferdinand played down fears that hostility to Manchester United among some fans could prevent the minute's silence from being properly observed before Wednesday's friendly against Switzerland at Wembley.

"I'm sure the fans will respect this," the defender said. "There were a lot of players who played for England in that tragedy, it is not just about Manchester United."

"It is about English football and it will be a poignant moment. We have got fantastic fans and I'm sure they will pay their respects in the right way."

The minute's silence at Wembley will be preceded by a day of remembrance at United's Old Trafford ground, the centrepiece of which will be the unveiling of a free, permanent exhibition of the Busby Babes in the South Stand tunnel - to be renamed Munich Tunnel - on Wednesday.

A memorial service will be conducted by the club chaplain to coincide with the time of crash at 3.04pm, followed by tributes to those who died.

There will be another minute's silence before the Manchester derby match on Sunday and United's chief executive David Gill is confident that will pass off in an appropriately respectful manner.

"In football there is always trepidation and it's a very tribal game," Gill acknowledged. "That's why we've worked on the communication and the explanations so we can honour it appropriately and respect it."

"If you look back and see that 23 people lost their lives, of which eight were footballers in their early 20s by and large.

"It's a true tragedy for football so if you're a football fan, as the fans coming through the gate will be, you should reflect on that and make sure that you behave appropriately."

United players will wear a 1950s-style kit, free from sponsorship and numbered one to 11. City are also planning to wear a special strip.

One of the those killed was former City keeper Frank Swift who was working as a sports reporter at the time, and Gill pointed out the whole of Manchester was affected.

He added: "We've been working closely with City and discussed it with them. Frank Swift was one of their greatest goalkeepers and we've talked to them about the plans for the day.

"They're aware of what we're doing, for example with the kit, and they're doing something special with their kit as well. We'll be giving a memento to every fan, both United and City."

"There are 3,000 City fans going through the gate on the day and we're involving some of their former players on the day."

"We're working to ensure they remember that it wasn't just Manchester United, it was the city of Manchester that was affected and it was the world of football that was affected."

"We hope and believe that the minute's silence will be observed appropriately."

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