Liverpool will attempt to repair the club's severely fractured relationship with Luis Suarez today after accusing him of deceit, on a day of extraordinary contrition in which Kenny Dalglish admitted that his own conduct in a television interview was not befitting of the club's manager.
It is too early to say whether Suarez will also be fined for his refusal to offer a handshake to Manchester United's Patrice Evra on Saturday and there are doubts whether the terms of the Uruguayan's contract allow the club to do that. But some at Anfield are deeply angered by conduct which undermined Dalglish and left him deeply exposed when he was questioned in a television interview about why Suarez declined the hand of the defender he racially abused at Anfield last October.
More may become clear this week on whether Suarez is fined for bringing the club into disrepute. Any move on Liverpool's part to do so would only happen once the club had established that the player could not appeal to the Professional Footballers' Association. A brief suspension of the player seems unlikely.
Liverpool's more enduring problem is how to salvage the Merseyside career of a player whose latest apology, just like the one he issued on 4 January, offered no apology or regret to Evra. The extraordinary statement issued by Dalglish was the one which displayed most contrition and was so uncharacteristic that it left the distinct impression that Fenway Sports Group – the club's American owners – had ordered it. "All of us have a responsibility to represent this club in a fit and proper manner and that applies equally to me as Liverpool manager," Dalglish said. "When I went on TV after yesterday's game I hadn't seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I'd like to apologise for that."
In the the 13 months since Dalglish returned to Liverpool's helm, he has been allowed virtually free rein but this was a significant moment in his relationship with Fenway Sports Group and the club's principal owner, John W Henry. The FSG website report of Liverpool's 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford was headlined: "Luis Suarez shows strength of character, scores in the face of adversity" and bore no reference to the hand-shake. But yesterday's New York Times was excoriating. Its report, headlined: "Another ugly incident mars Liverpool's good name," opened with this paragraph: "If the Fenway Sports Group is to be the responsible team owner in soccer that it has proved to be in baseball, it needs to get hold of Liverpool, its club in England's Premier League, and repair its global image."
Liverpool's managing director, Ian Ayre, commendably led the club's attempts to repair the damage, stating that Suarez had lied to Dalglish when he agreed to shake Evra's hands. But Liverpool awaited the direction of FSG, in Boston, before acting, and the Americans' hands are on this.
Though many Liverpool fans continue to defend Suarez in the teeth of the club's first public criticism of him, Dalglish's halo has now slipped in the eyes of a section of the club's fans. A number of supporters' comments beneath the Liverpool Echo report of Saturday's match called Dalglish's judgement into question.
The PFA chief executive, Gordon Taylor, has said that Liverpool should discipline Suarez over conduct which was "embarrassing" to the club. Taylor blamed the manager for encouraging Suarez's behaviour and accused Liverpool of refusing to accept the PFA's offer to act as a conciliator when Suarez was first accused of using racist language by Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
"If [Suarez] is going to ignore a decision, he needs to be disciplined or he is going to have the tail wagging the dog," Taylor told the BBC. "Kenny has been supportive of Suarez but to some extent such support and denial of responsibility has encouraged what has happened today to take place."
The FA, which has been the subject of intense criticism from Dalglish after the independent regulatory commission they appointed ruled that Suarez called Evra "negro" seven times, is not inclined to step in. It may hope that yesterday's apologies – which were followed by a Manchester United statement thanking Liverpool for their comments – will enable football to move on from a dismal episode. United and Liverpool do not appear to have coordinated their statements.
The FA is also reserving judgement on disciplinary action over Saturday's half-time tunnel melee. If it features in the extraordinary incident section of referee Phil Dowd's report, which will reach Wembley today, the FA will speak to police, stewards and other witnesses before considering any charges.
Statements in brief
Luis Suarez: I made a mistake and I regret what happened. I should have shaken Patrice Evra's hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions.
Kenny Dalglish: When I went on TV after the game I hadn't seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager. I'd like to apologise for that.
Manchester United: Manchester United thanks Liverpool for the apologies issued following Saturday's game.