Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has made his first contribution to the debate on racism in football, suggesting four days before Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez face each other again at Old Trafford that he does believe the issue is returning to the game.
With the Football Association expecting Manchester United and Liverpool to abide by a commitment not to inflame tensions before the sides meet on Saturday lunchtime, Ferguson said that the re-emergence of the prejudice has mystified him.
"I don't understand at all where it's coming from, to be honest with you," Ferguson said. "This is a moment where we have to take stock and we should do something about it if it's surfacing again, and be really hard and firm on any form or shape of racism. There have been a couple of examples recently which is not good. In 2012, you can't believe it. It was obvious maybe 20 years ago and the improvements have been for everyone to see."
The manager's comments came on the day that two teenagers who racially abused Newcastle United striker Sammy Ameobi on Twitter were given final warnings by police. Ferguson's words appear to reflect Suarez's ban for the use of the word "negro" against United defender Evra and they will infuriate the Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, who has never accepted the verdict of an FA-appointed commission.
Dalglish first risked re-igniting the row with United on Monday night, when he said that Suarez should never have been banned. Ferguson's own contribution was made at around the same time, in an interview with CNN at the Laureus World Sports awards in London.
Until now, his only contribution to the race debate had been his declaration on 23 December that "the [Suarez/Evra] matter is over and I think we're satisfied that the FA have found the right decision".
But with Chelsea's John Terry to stand trial in July to deny a charge that he racially abused Queen's Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand, Ferguson was willing to expand. "I have had some fantastic black players, absolutely magnificent black players, and with every one of them I have enjoyed my working relationship with them," he said. "But this is a moment where we have to take stock."Reuse content