Manchester United warned of Luis Suarez backlash

Lucas Leiva believes abuse from supporters will only spur on his Liverpool team-mate today

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The Independent Football

The abuse that Manchester United fans will rain down on Liverpool's Luis Suarez at Old Trafford today could rebound on them, according to his team-mate Lucas Leiva. Suarez, who attracts controversy like a magnet, was forced to apologise after his last visit to the ground, when he refused to shake the hand of United's Patrice Evra, having earlier been banned for eight matches for racially abusing him.

On that occasion Sir Alex Ferguson labelled Suarez "a disgrace" and said he should never play for Liverpool again. The incident set the tone for the game, which the home team won 2-1, and there were reports of clashes in the tunnel at half-time. When the sides met at Anfield in September the two players did shake hands and this weekend Ferguson, for one, was more relaxed, joking that he hopes Suarez plays at right-back – "as far from goal as possible".

Damien Comolli, the former director of football at Liverpool who was responsible for signing Suarez two years ago, said on Friday that "victimisation" might drive the Uruguayan from England. Lucas feels it more likely that his team-mate, who was condemned in some quarters for a handball at Mansfield last Sunday, will thrive on media criticism and abuse from opposing supporters.

"If in the future he will get tired of it [and leave], we don't know, but we hope he doesn't and people will start to give him some credit," the Brazilian midfielder said. "It could be too much but it could be a motivation as well. That's the strong character he has and instead of it being a negative thing it could be positive. A lot of players like the boos and it gives them that bit extra. It doesn't seem to bother him too much. We hope he keeps playing well and keeps being at Liverpool because he's a special and important player for the future."

United can stretch their Premier League lead over Manchester City to 10 points by winning today's game before City kick off at Arsenal.