By Greg Stobart at Old Trafford
Wearing the No.7 shirt made so famous by his manager, on Saturday afternoon Luis Suarez embarrassed himself and Liverpool with his spiteful decision to refuse to shake Patrice Evra’s hand.
It was just the latest episode in Suarez’s list of shame, but perhaps the most damaging. After a week in which all parties spoke of their desire to move on, after his manager, Kenny Dalglish, insisted his striker would shake hands with the Manchester United defender.
We thought the relationship between the two clubs had reached a nadir when Suarez was banned for eight games for racially abusing Evra in October. But the great rivalry burns more intensely than ever - but no-one from other side of the divide should be proud of it.
With all eyes on the pre-match ritual and cameras filming from every angle, Suarez very deliberately ignored Evra and extended his hand instead to David de Gea. When Evra grabbed the Uruguayan’s arm to pull him back, it was shrugged aside.
|LUIS SUAREZ'S 90 MINUTES
| REFUSES TO SHAKE EVRA'S HAND
|0'||"The players are out on the pitch. Luis Suarez prods the flames unnecessarily at Old Trafford further by refusing to shake Patrice Evra's hand. The Frenchman tried to shake the Uruguayan's hand but the Liverpool striker was having none of it. Tut tut tut. Anyway, let's get on with the football."|
|RIO & EVRA COLLIDE|
|2'||"Rio Ferdinand collides with team-mate Evra almost immediately and is down on the floor receiving treatment. He did a little backflip on the edge of his own area and landed awkwardly on his neck."|
| FERDINAND TAKES THE BALL
|45'||"Big moment at Old Trafford. Ferdinand tackles Suarez as the last man in United's defence and the Liverpool striker goes down to the turf. No foul is given by the referee, much to the fury of the Uruguay international. Replays indicate the England defender's tackle was an excellent one."|
|REPORTED TUNNEL BUST-UP
"There was reportedly a tunnel bust-up of sorts. United's Evra apparently tried talking to Suarez but Liverpool team-mate Skrtel got involved and the incident escalated accordingly. If I was a betting man (I'm not, ever since I realised I'm completely rubbish at predicting), I would put it on a red card coming out in the latter 45 minutes."
|LOSES HIS COOL
|65'||"Suarez is in a foul mood and attempts to boot the ball at Patrice Evra on the left side near the Liverpool goal. United are refusing to sit back and defend their lead and are continuing to attack their Premier League opponents."|
|PULLS A GOAL BACK
"Liverpool get a goal back! Luis Suarez, who won the free-kick when Michael Carrick tackled the striker from behind 40-yards out, smashes the ball home from inside the six-yard box. The ball had hit Rio Ferdinand on the knee and the United defender was helpless to stop the Uruguayan getting a goal back for the visitors. Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool."
|EVRA CELEBRATES VICTORY
|90'||"Evra gets a telling off from the officials for celebrating towards the home fans but in front of Luis Suarez. Naughty, naughty. The Frenchman is prevented from going down the tunnel straight away for understandable reasons."|
Ferguson made no attempt to hide his thoughts in his post-match interview following United’s 2-1 victory that took them above Manchester City to the top of the Premier League.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I just could not believe it. I had a chat with Patrice this morning, and he said 'I'm going to shake his hand. I've got nothing to be ashamed of and I want to keep my dignity.' And then he [Suarez] refuses - he's a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club.
"That certain player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. With the history that club has got, and he does that in this city today - he could have caused a riot."
Neutrals, often hostile towards United, would have found themselves agreeing with the Scot.
While the suggestions that Suarez’s actions could have started a riot may be overblown, his idiotic childishness set the tone for a venomous 90 minutes of football. It resulted in a game in which police had to separate players in the tunnel at both half-time and full-time, while Evra enjoyed United’s victory with a provocative celebration near to Suarez.
Evra’s understandable but excessive victory dance earned a reprimand from Ferguson, but there was no such balance from Dalglish, who has sworn blind loyalty to Suarez throughout the saga and has found himself let down.
That Dalglish still sought to defend Suarez was quite remarkable. Asked by a television interviewer on his thoughts on the incident, he first pretended he was the only man in the stadium who didn’t see it before rounding on his inquisitor accusing him of being "bang out of order".
As the Kop legend scratched for excuses, he became more and more desperate, eventually stumbling across the root cause of this whole sorry mess. Twenty-four hour sports news stations, apparently. Of course, Kenny.
Dalglish’s reaction, which he didn’t repeat when he shirked his usual post-match duties with the written press, was symptomatic of a club that has taken no responsibility. ‘It’s never your fault’ taunted the United supporters in the Stretford End.
Surely, someone at Anfield will now take Dalglish to task. He has both controlled and epitomised Liverpool’s aggressive attitude towards the Suarez-Evra affair, causing untold harm to the Reds’ image and distracting from the football.
Liverpool and Suarez have consistently painted their player as the man wronged and Evra as a liar, despite the 25-year-old admitting to calling the United left-back “negro” during a heated exchange between the pair.
It baffles the mind, though, that he should pass the opportunity to draw a line under it and instead guarantee the saga drags on. Everyone wants it to end but it threatens to run and run.
Ferguson wrote in his programme notes that his "biggest regret is the way Patrice has been castigated in some quarters for standing up to racism". Accused of being a ‘lying b******’ by the vocal Liverpool support, Evra’s reaction at the final whistle - as though he had just scored a winner in the last minute of the World Cup final - was over-the-top.
It has been a period in football in which symbolism matters, whether it’s handshakes or captain’s armbands.
Perhaps it would have been different had Liverpool shown any sensitivity, had they not convinced Suarez that he did absolutely nothing wrong, had they not alluded to a grand conspiracy in the FA’s corridors of power.
Suarez is not a racist, that has been accepted by the FA, United and Evra. But he is a fool - and he and Liverpool left Old Trafford on Saturday with no points and no credit.
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