Sunday 21 January 2018

Suarez proves a nuisance for all the right reasons

Luis Suarez made a return to the Liverpool line-up last night
Luis Suarez made a return to the Liverpool line-up last night

Mark Ogden

Luis Suarez only had to look across at the man wearing the Manchester United captain's armband to realise that his road to redemption at Liverpool can be anything but long and winding.

Wayne Rooney has played six times for United since spending a summer attempting to leave Old Trafford, yet as the two teams lined up in the tunnel for this League Cup tie, the 27-year-old was leading the home side on to the pitch having been named as captain by David Moyes.

Rooney remains at odds with United. Those who know the player insist that his 'issues' with the club have yet to be resolved. But despite this, his name has been chanted by the United supporters, Moyes has repeatedly praised the England forward and, to all intents and purposes, Rooney's stand-off with the club has been swept under the carpet.

There is a simple reason for Rooney's return to favour: performances on the pitch.

He may have been a malcontent since the end of April, but Rooney has been United's best player this season – by some distance – and he has made as many goals as he has scored.

So, the route laid out for Suarez to put a similarly fractious summer at Liverpool behind him is simple. He has to deliver on the pitch and let the storm clouds dissipate.

The Uruguayan has further to travel than Rooney, however, after spending the last 10 games sat in the stands, contemplating his lengthy suspension for sinking his teeth into the arm of Branislav Ivanovic last season.

Aside from his repeated efforts to force a move away from Anfield this summer, Suarez has also brought shame on the club that pays his £120,000-a-week wages.

Yet football supporters, as hardline and unforgiving as they often claim to be, quickly forget their principles when it involves a star player such as Suarez or Rooney.

And just as Rooney has been serenaded by United's fans since his return to action this season, Suarez emerged from his suspension at Old Trafford with 7,200 Liverpool supporters offering strong vocal proof of their affection for the lightning rod from Salto.

Rooney and Suarez showed their value to their clubs during this game.

Suarez, who appeared a touch heavier than prior to his suspension, took time to find his feet as United, propelled by Rooney, began more brightly.

Yet there were flashes of the Liverpool forward's mercurial ability in the first half – a clever pass to Victor Moses which was intercepted by Ryan Giggs and perfect control from Jose Enrique's cross after escaping Jonny Evans to shoot goalwards.

On that occasion, goalkeeper David de Gea smothered Suarez's shot, but the forward reacted like a cobra once the chance opened up, so it is safe to assume he will be even sharper once the ring-rust disappears.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has spoken of Suarez's child-like desperation to be on a football pitch, an escape denied him by his suspension.

And his enthusiasm was obvious as the game progressed into the latter stages, with Liverpool chasing the game following Javier Hernandez's 46th-minute opener, as Suarez's energy appeared to increase, rather than evaporate as a result of months on the sidelines.

Daniel Sturridge, in front of England manager Roy Hodgson, should have been carrying Liverpool's goal threat due to his superior fitness, but it was Suarez who was the sharpest thorn in United's side.

He linked play, tormented Evans with his movement and sent a left-foot shot into the side-netting on 70 minutes.

Suarez was a nuisance for all the right reasons and, after being fouled by Phil Jones on the edge of the penalty area after 71 minutes, he saw his free-kick rattle De Gea's crossbar from 25 yards.

Rooney, meanwhile, was causing similar problems for Liverpool, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet having to repel a free-kick from the United No 10 before palming away a fiercely-struck 20-yard strike.

But for the resolve of Moyes and Rodgers, both players could have forced through their desire to move elsewhere this summer.

Rooney could have swapped United red for the blue of Chelsea, while Suarez may have fancied leading Arsenal's title challenge rather than Liverpool's pursuit of a top-four finish.

But while the history of both players suggests further bumps in the road ahead, it would be foolish to discard a talisman and Rooney and Suarez will retain that status at their respective ends of the M62 for a good while yet. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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