Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says he is puzzled by Liverpool striker Luis Suarez’s flair for attracting controversy, ahead of the meeting between the sides in the Premier League today.
Regularly criticized for diving, Suarez hit the headlines again last weekend when he handled the ball prior to scoring Liverpool’s winning goal in their 2-1 victory at non-league Mansfield Town in the FA Cup.
The Uruguayan has bad blood with Ferguson’s side, having been banned for eight games for racially abusing United full-back Patrice Evra in 2011, and he is sure to receive a hostile reception at Old Trafford.
“I didn’t see the Mansfield game, so it’s difficult to say if it was deliberate or not,” Ferguson said. “But I think the lad is laden with controversy. I don’t know if he enjoys it or not.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was quick to defend Suarez over the Mansfield incident and Ferguson admitted he would have done the same in similar circumstances.
“You’re always going to support your own player,” he said. “That’s not surprising from Brendan Rogers. I’ve done it myself. It’s part of your loyalty and protection of the player.”
For all his apparent sympathy over Rodgers’ handling of Suarez, Ferguson says the Liverpool coach will be a fortunate man if he is given time to rebuild the club by owner John Henry.
Liverpool go into today’s game trailing their rivals by 21 points, having finished seventh, sixth and eighth in the last three seasons. Ferguson says that Rodgers has a huge job on his hands to restore the Reds to former glories.
“Patience is a real commodity in football and if Brendan’s getting that then he’s very lucky,” Ferguson said.
“It’s terrific if Liverpool fans are prepared to be patient because it’s going to require it, because it’s a long way back to where they used to be,” he said.
“It is difficult to measure the Liverpool side of the moment against those teams of the past,” Ferguson said. “They haven’t won the league for more than 20 years. It’s a long time for a club like Liverpool.”
Meanwhile, Robin van Persie has urged his Manchester United team-mates not to get carried away by their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League ahead of the clash with Liverpool.
Victory will put them 10 points clear of second-place Manchester City, who do not play at Arsenal until later in the day.
The Dutchman wants his side to maintain focus.
“It is only seven points, you have to look at it game by game. We still have to go through the entire second half of the league and almost play everyone one more time,” Van Persie said.
“Nothing is decided. It will be tough and it will be hard. This weekend we have Liverpool and it’s a massive game for us,” he said.