By Russell Stoddart
Liverpool fans were justified in welcoming "priceless" striker Luis Suarez back with open arms, according to former Reds star Ray Houghton.
Suarez made his long-awaited return to action against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday evening, having served a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.
The Uruguayan could not prevent United triumphing 1-0 at Old Trafford, but Houghton believes he will once again become a key asset to Brendan Rodgers.
“The Liverpool fans are very knowledgeable,” he told Goal.
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“Luis looked okay [against United], I wouldn’t put it any higher than that. He was lacking with the final touch and that will only come with game time.
“It was good to see some Uruguay flags among the big Liverpool support and the only boos I heard directed at him came from the United fans.
“He certainly showed the right appetite and I never doubted that would be the case.
“I know Brendan said it was like welcoming back a £50-£60m striker, but I wouldn’t have put a finger on his value. If he scores the goals that he can, then he is priceless to the club.”
Suarez spent most of the summer publicly trying to engineer a move away from Anfield, and Houghton insists the Uruguayan owes himself and the club another stellar season.
“We all know that he wants to play in the Champions League and you can’t blame him because he only has one career,” he added.
“If Liverpool are out of the Champions League running in January, then there might be rumblings about a move away, but that’s still a long way off.
“Suarez owes himself a good season, more so than he owes the club and its fans. He let himself down badly with the 10-game ban for biting and I hope the penny has finally dropped.
"The big test won’t be on nights like this when he knows the eyes of the world are on him, but when the red mist descends and he acts impulsively.”
Wednesday evening also saw Suarez partnered with the in-form Daniel Sturridge for the first time this season, and Houghton believes the duo can form a fearsome partnership.
“There were glimpses of what they will hopefully do when they are at their best,” he continued.
“Both looked like what they are, short of match sharpness, and don’t forget that Sturridge missed pre-season and is catching up.
“In the few games that he played with Suarez before the Uruguayan’s ban last season, there were certainly positive signs.”
Despite suffering consecutive defeats to Southampton and United, Liverpool have enjoyed a promising start to the season. With Suarez's return, Houghton sees more good times ahead.
“Liverpool have proven they can survive without Suarez, which should tell everyone, including Suarez, that they are not a one-man team,” he insisted.
“It shows Suarez that he cannot take anything for granted. Liverpool ae lucky to have him, but he’s lucky to have Liverpool.
“He looks good in a Liverpool jersey and it was great to see him in one again after I had my doubts.
“These are exciting times ahead, and with Suarez back they are certainly in the mix for the top four.”