Monday 18 December 2017

Fergie says Suarez should never play for Pool again

Manchester United's Patrice Evra celebrates his side's 2-1 victory over Liverpool as Luis Suarez walks off at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon. Photo: Darren Staples
Manchester United's Patrice Evra celebrates his side's 2-1 victory over Liverpool as Luis Suarez walks off at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon. Photo: Darren Staples


Well, that went without a hitch. Yesterday was supposed to be the day when Liverpool and Manchester United moved on from the Patrice Evra-Luis Suarez affair.

The pair would shake hands in the pre-game ceremony and English football could slowly, if with lingering resentment, move on from a scandal that had overshadowed much of the season.

It didn't work quite like that. Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand in the line-up, enraging Evra. Rio Ferdinand ignored Suarez's hand subsequently and later said he had lost all respect for the player. Evra reportedly tried to pursue Suarez in the tunnel at half-time and then celebrated wildly in front of him at the final whistle. After the game, Alex Ferguson described Suarez as "a disgrace who should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again". He also condemned Evra for celebrating in front of Suarez at the final whistle.

Before the game the police had bizarrely seized copies of a Manchester United fanzine which included a poster of a KKK hood and the words 'Suarez is innocent'. Zero tolerance never knows when to stop.

So it was simply another quiet afternoon between these two clubs in which United's victory appeared to be an irrelevance to everything but the title race.

Last week Alan Hansen wrote in a newspaper column that he never expected Liverpool fans to love a player as much as they had loved Fernando Torres, but their affection for Suarez surpassed it. Ferguson's comments may have cemented his position with Liverpool's supporters.

This adoration is, in some ways, curious. Liverpool have won nothing with Suarez and they haven't challenged for the big competitions as they did with Torres. Yet Suarez is adored.

Liverpool inspire a loyalty from supporters that, until the Suarez-Evra affair began, many clubs could envy. The tribalism has intensified since the incident at Anfield. Racism hangs over the club because of the FA ruling. The rest of the world views it as a simple matter and believes Liverpool are defending the indefensible.

The case is more complicated than that, but even the most committed defender of the club must now acknowledge how ugly it has become.

Dalglish acknowledged nothing once again. He has done himself few favours over the past few months but he was abandoned, too, by the owners and the management above him who still seem reluctant to act. Yesterday, Suarez let him down also.

The response from Liverpool fans has been based on a twisted tribalism rather than racism, although on Twitter especially that has also become a sinister feature.

The non-racists see it as simply defending a player who has suffered a miscarriage of justice.

They have been blinded by this and cannot see that when the world hears them booing a black man who has accused someone of racism, it sounds like racism. If they do realise it, they believe righting the wrong is more important.

Yesterday demonstrated that Liverpool, more than anyone, needs the situation to end to salvage their own reputation and to save Suarez's career in England.

In his interview with Sky, Dalglish was startled by the news that Suarez had refused to shake Evra's hand. He turned it back on the interviewer, as he always does, but then he refused to attend the post-match press conference which suggested that Liverpool felt there was a need for silence.

They have been damaged most by the whole affair. They can continue to talk of the injustice and claim that Suarez's actions yesterday somehow show he was wronged but they have lost the argument.

"Disappointed because everything is not that [sic] it seems," Suarez said on Twitter after the game. There were claims, too, that Evra had withdrawn his hand first, moving the conspiracy theories from a man on the grassy knoll level of plausibility to something like the Illuminati lizards.

Ferguson's comments had merit but they also deflected from the reality that Evra lost his head completely. He would have been sent off if he had caught his intended target, Suarez, with a challenge rather than Ferdinand early in the game and he continued to look for retribution at half-time.

The best that can be said of the rest of the Liverpool team is that they were reasonably well behaved. Stewart Downing shook everyone's hand and if Liverpool had more players like him there would be no trouble between the clubs. There would just be no Liverpool.

United destroyed Liverpool at the start of the second half. Wayne Rooney scored twice and found space around Liverpool's dreadful midfield.

Antonio Valencia and Rafael were superb for United on the right and Liverpool, once the preliminaries were out of the way, were lifeless.

Even when Suarez scored 10 minutes from the end, Liverpool looked like they wanted the game to end.

When it did, the trouble continued. Liverpool will not listen to Ferguson but they need somebody to tell them it's over.

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