Ferguson quick to defend his unshaken captain


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The Independent Football

Manchester United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said last night that Liverpool's Luis Suarez was "a disgrace" and should never play for the club again after his refusal to shake Patrice Evra's hand before yesterday's game. Evra had told Ferguson he was prepared to do so, despite the Liverpool forward's eight-match ban for racially abusing him.

"I couldn't believe it," Ferguson said. "He's a disgrace to Liverpool football club with their history and I'd get rid of him if I was them. He shouldn't be allowed to play for Liverpool again. It could have caused a riot. It created a tension and terrible atmosphere and even the ref didn't know what to do about it."

Having said in one interview that Evra should not have celebrated in front of Suarez at the end, Ferguson told Manchester United TV: "That's understandable." He added of his captain: "Liverpool had a player banned for eight matches and they're blaming Patrice Evra. There was a lot of tension on the boy. I don't think he played that well and you wonder whether it had an impact."

In his notes for the match programme, Ferguson had written: "My biggest regret is the way Patrice has been castigated in some quarters for standing up to racism. He can't have enjoyed the booing he endured at Anfield the other week." Yesterday Ferguson added: "Football has come a long way in fighting racism since John Barnes was having bananas thrown at him and we must stamp it out."

Rio Ferdinand, who responded by ignoring Suarez, said of him: "It was just bad decision-making by their guy. It could have been put to bed if the handshake was done. After seeing what I saw I decided not to shake his hand. I lost all respect for the guy after that."

Wayne Rooney declined to be drawn on the matter, but Liverpool's manager, Kenny Dalglish, who like Ferguson did not attend the post-match press conference, took issue with a television interviewer, telling him: "I think you're very severe and bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here. Both sets of fans behaved really well, they had a bit of banter, no problem, right?

"When we had the FA Cup tie nothing happened, because there was no 24-hour news channel in the build-up to the game." Meanwhile Suarez took to Twitter, where he said cryptically: "Disappointed, because everything is not as it seems."

The Professional Footballers' Association's chief executive, Gordon Taylor, believes Liverpool's owners need to step in to deal with the "festering" controversy. "The situation is running away with us and this isn't healthy for football," he said, "particularly with the Government looking into the governance of football.

"I would have expected the Liverpool owners and directors to bring about a better atmosphere and draw a line under it. There is nothing to be gained by the matter festering, for the image of the game."