Ferguson: Suarez row will not alter our rivalry


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The Independent Football

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson does not believe the fallout from Luis Suarez's ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra will harm relations with Liverpool.

Suarez is set to appeal against the Football Association's eight-match suspension and £40,000 fine after being found guilty of using insulting words towards United defender Evra at Anfield in October.

With Liverpool not set to receive the written reasons for the judgement until the new year, the saga looks set to drag on for some time yet.

Both clubs supported their players throughout the investigation, although Ferguson criticised Liverpool last month, accusing them of "drip-feeding" information about the case. Liverpool have also attracted criticism after their players wore Suarez T-shirts in the warm-up before the goalless draw at Wigan on Wednesday.

While Ferguson was again unwilling to talk expansively on the ruling yesterday, he declared himself satisfied with the outcome and maintains that the situation will not worsen the relationship between the two North-West clubs, who have one of the most bitter rivalries in English football.

"It's not about Manchester United and Liverpool at all, it's nothing to do with that," Ferguson said. "This is an individual situation where one person was racially abused.

"It doesn't take a lot to remind everyone that this is the biggest derby game in the country, up until the present anyway. Things may change the more successful Manchester City become.

"We don't need to talk about it. Our support of Patrice was obvious, right from the word go, and that's still the same. The matter is over and I think we're satisfied that they've found the right decision."

Ferguson also hinted at the unpredictably of FA penalties, citing Evra's four-match ban following an altercation with a member of the Chelsea groundstaff. The French defender faced censure after a fracas at Stamford Bridge in April 2008.

"Patrice got that suspension for the incident down at Chelsea when no-one was there, just a groundsman and our fitness coach," added Ferguson. "He got a four-match ban and we had to wait two weeks for the evidence to come through. We were quite astounded at that ourselves.

"To get a four-match ban for that we thought was well over the top for a trivial incident, but it happened and there's nothing you can do about it, you know."

Ferguson has been boosted by the news that utility man Phil Jones will be available for United's home game against Wigan on Boxing Day, following fears that he had suffered a broken jaw. United initially expected Jones to be out for six weeks but he will feature in midfield on Monday.

Forward Ashley Young, however, will be absent for several weeks with a knee injury picked up in Wednesday's 5-0 win at Fulham.