Man Utd v Liverpool: Luis Suarez laden with controversy - Ferguson

By Ben SmithBBC Sport
Luis Suarez laden with controversy - Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says Luis Suarez is "laden with controversy" ahead of Sunday's meeting with Liverpool.

Suarez heads to Old Trafford having been criticised for using his hand before scoring the Reds' second goal in their 2-1 FA Cup win at Mansfield.

"I don't know whether he enjoys [being controversial], but it is something we hope we don't suffer from ourselves," Ferguson said of Suarez, who was banned for eight games in 2011 for racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra.

That incident, for which he was also fined £40,000, occurred during the fierce rivals' 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Suarez subsequently refused to shake hands with Evra before United's 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in February 2012.

In the wake of last weekend's controversy at Field Mill, the Uruguayan was accused of "stealing" the FA Cup tie by Mansfield's chief executive Carolyn Radford.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has consistently spoken of his belief in Suarez, though, and criticised his treatment by officials and opposing fans.

"I never saw the game last Sunday, so it is difficult to say whether it was a deliberate handball," said Ferguson.

"You will always support your own player, I don't think that is surprising from Brendan.

"I have done it myself. It is just part of your loyalty to the player and protection for them too.

"I hope we don't suffer from some of the decisions that have gone his way in terms of that. We want it to be a good game on Sunday.

"Over the years, the Liverpool-Manchester United games have been relatively free of controversy - nothing really sensational in terms of decisions that marred the game, and that is good."

However, former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, who scored 183 goals in 369 games for Liverpool, disagreed with Ferguson's comments about Suarez.

Fowler predicts Suarez winner

"He didn't really need to say too much in my eyes," Fowler told BBC Sport.

"Suarez is a condemned man before he even steps on the pitch. As much as he is getting stick from everyone else, I think it's driving him on and making him a better player. He wants to prove a lot to people wrong and show how good he is."

Fowler added: "Every player will have mishaps in a game. Robin van Persie was accused of elbowing someone earlier in the season. Gareth Bale has been accused of being a diver at times. Luis Suarez does have some misdemeanours in his past but I want to go on the positives. I love him as a player."

Liverpool go into the game having lost seven of their past eight visits to Old Trafford - a memorable 4-1 victory in March 2009 the only positive result.

But Ferguson insists it will never be easy. "Derby games are very tricky affairs, as they always have been," he added.

"The previous year we outplayed them in the cup and lost 2-1. You are sitting at the end of the game saying, 'How did that happen?' Derby games are like that. Hopefully we will play well and win."

Ferguson also served a reminder to Liverpool fans that it may be some time before they return to the top of the English game.

"The club at the moment is a hell of a challenge because they haven't won the league for 20 years. It is a long time," he added.

"It is difficult to measure any Liverpool side at the moment with any Liverpool side of the past.

"I think it is terrific if the Liverpool fans are prepared to be patient because it is going to require patience. It is a long road back to what they used to be."

Van Persie is likely to be a key player again on Sunday and Ferguson admitted that the Dutchman's decision to join the club had been vital, even in the face of strong interest from other clubs, including Manchester City.

"I wasn't aware of the City thing until he told me himself that he had turned them down," Ferguson added.


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