A moment's idle chatter with his friend Pepe Reina and then Luis Suarez was off, walking into the moment which shames the proud name of his club and left those with the job of preserving it shaking their heads in what looked like disbelief.
The principles which Suarez's manager, Kenny Dalglish, wanted to restore when he returned to the manager's role on this ground, 13 months ago, are known around Anfield as the Liverpool Way and involve quietly and assuredly getting on with the business of success as they did when the club's No 7 jersey was feared across the land.
But the current custodian of the shirt is destroying any attempt to instil the virtues of the past. Yesterday was the day when Liverpool, whatever the lingering frustrations of the race case, needed to put the controversy behind them and, as Dalglish said in the statement that the club purposefully issued early on Wednesday evening, draw a line.
That same statement offered the assurance that Suarez would shake Patrice Evra's hand. In an infantile refusal to do so, he denied his club any right to indignation about what has occurred in the past four months.
Dalglish must take responsibility for this because he has contributed to Suarez's inability to let go. The Liverpool manager's declaration, after Suarez's return against Tottenham last Monday, that the player should not have been banned served only to perpetuate a sense in Suarez that – to coin a United anthem – "it's never your fault". Forces of reason at Liverpool are working hard to restore a reputation.
The managing director Ian Ayre's acknowledgement that the club was damaged by the race case was another attempt to draw a line. But Dalglish is in charge and Suarez is still going rogue.
Yesterday morning was a time to sit him down and instruct him that Evra's hand was to be accepted at all costs, though it is hard to imagine that Dalglish's relationship with Suarez encompasses that level of honesty. The T-shirts and the tantrums might have made the player feel the Liverpool love but when the moment came to move on, he undermined his manager's undertaking.
Dalglish was confronted with this fact, in an unflinching post-match interview by Sky Television's Geoff Shreeves. It was to Shreeves' credit that he did not allow the manager any obfuscations. It was an uncomfortable encounter.
Dalglish's attempt at justification left him beginning to look destabilised by this situation. The only mitigation the club could offer for Suarez's conduct last night was that he had not withdrawn a hand – merely refused to offer one – but it was all pretty slim. The feeling is that Liverpool's American owners, who have maintained a steely silence on this issue, are less than comfortable.
There was a fairly long wait in Old Trafford's press conference room to see if Dalglish might emerge to talk, though for those with his interests at heart it was a mercy that he did not show up. Dalglish's rationale for stepping straight on to the team bus was that since Sir Alex Ferguson does not appear before the press after games, it was easier to justify his absence. There was certainly nothing he could have usefully added to a dismal day for the reputation of football, on which Suarez provided the preface for a ritual trading of vitriol. "One lying bastard..." "Luis Suarez, you know what you are..."
The miracle was that Suarez was in a fit state to contribute anything at all. His head was so scrambled by the time he slammed a ball into the stand before half-time that removing him felt like the most reasonable option – though the loss of face removed that option.
You wondered what he might have done with a clear head, when he was deeply involved in Liverpool's goal – winning the free-kick that Charlie Adam lofted over Jonny Evans and collecting the rebound.
The afternoon's last spectacle was as dreary as the one which started it – Evra racing around the Liverpool fans – but United took a moral victory. "Patrice told me he wanted to keep his dignity and shake hands," Ferguson said, never one to pass up the chance to twist a knife.Reuse content