x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson says United past issues with Liverpool's Luis Suarez

Sir Alex Ferguson says a Manchester United meeting with Liverpool always has its own agenda due to the high profile of the clubs but that last year's controversy with Liverpool's Luis Suarez and United's Patrice Evra is in the past.

Already facing racism issues, when Luis Suarez, center, refused to shake the hand of Manchester United's Patrice Evra, second from left, the Liverpool striker was followed by a dark cloud the rest of the season.
Already facing racism issues, when Luis Suarez, center, refused to shake the hand of Manchester United's Patrice Evra, second from left, the Liverpool striker was followed by a dark cloud the rest of the season.

Controversy stalks Luis Suarez more than any English Premier League player, and the Liverpool striker will again be under the spotlight in the biggest match of the weekend against high-profile rivals Manchester United.

The Uruguay international has found his touch in front of goal this season, scoring 15 times in the league - second only to United's Robin van Persie - but negative headlines are never far away.

Often criticised for his theatrical dives, Suarez stirred up another furore last Sunday by using his hand to score what proved to be the winning goal in an English FA Cup match against non-league Mansfield.

Now, Suarez returns to Old Trafford for the first time since snubbing a pre-match handshake with the United defender Patrice Evra, reigniting a drawn-out racism-related feud and ensuring he will receive a hot reception this weekend.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, described Suarez as a "disgrace" after that encounter in February but hopes all the talk this time round will be about action on the field between England's two most successful clubs.

"There will always be a certain build-up to a Manchester United-Liverpool game, simply because of the history between the two clubs," Ferguson said.

"It brings its own agenda in terms of profile and pre-match discussion. Last year it was unfortunate with the Suarez behaviour. I think, hopefully, it is behind both clubs now and we can just look forward to the game."

Gone are the days when United and Liverpool went head-to-head for the title - the last of Liverpool's 18 championships came in 1990 - and the chasm between the teams has perhaps never been greater.

Liverpool are in eighth place after 21 matches, already 21 points behind the league leaders United.

"Liverpool probably haven't done as well as they'd have liked over the last few years, and they'd probably admit that," said Paul Scholes, the veteran United midfielder.

Yet there are signs that Liverpool are slowly on the rise, with their players starting to understand the methods and tactics employed by their highly-rated new manager Brendan Rodgers. The team have won three of their past four games by three-goal margins.

Suarez has blossomed in his second full season in England while Steven Gerrard, the captain, is rediscovering his best form.

"I think my performances are getting closer to where I want them to be," Gerrard said.

United are seven points clear of the reigning champions Manchester City and with City facing an away match against Arsenal, where they have not won in 37 years, it would be no surprise if that gap at the top had grown by the end of the weekend.

"Seven points is not a small gap and we can't allow that to increase," said Gareth Barry, the City midfielder.

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