Sapa-AFP in London
Alex Ferguson branded Luis Suarez a “disgrace” as the racism feud between Manchester United and Liverpool exploded once more in a stormy Premier League clash at Old Trafford.
Two goals from Wayne Rooney saw United score a 2-1 victory that sent the champions back to the top of the table, one point clear of Manchester City, who face Aston Villa today.
But the result almost became a footnote to another acrimonious encounter between the two bitter rivals, with Suarez lighting the fuse before kick-off after refusing to shake United captain Patrice Evra’s hand.
Suarez’s pre-match snub came as he returned to Liverpool’s starting line-up for the first time since his eight-match ban for racially abusing Evra during the two clubs’ meeting at Anfield in October.
Evra later reportedly attempt-ed to confront Suarez over the incident at half-time, sparking a melee in the tunnel that required the intervention of police and stewards.
A disgusted Ferguson lashed out at Suarez after the game, saying the Uruguayan had tarnished the reputation of Liverpool and should never play for the club again.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just could not believe it,” Ferguson said. “I had a chat with Patrice this morning and he said he was going to shake his hand. He said: ‘I have nothing to be ashamed of.’
“(Suarez) is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club. He shouldn’t be allowed to play for Liverpool again.
“The history that club’s got, he could have caused a riot. It was terrible what he did. It was a terrible start to the game and it created a terrible atmosphere.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, said Evra was unwise to have celebrated in front of Suarez at the final whistle. “He shouldn’t have done that,” Ferguson said.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish later insisted he had not seen the handshake snub, but lost his cool with a television interviewer at the suggestion it had led to the half-time tunnel bust-up.
“It’s bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened today. How many bookings were there? The fans had a bit of banter,” said Dalglish.
In later matches yesterday, pressure mounted on Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas after the Blues crashed 2-0 at mid-table Everton.
A Steven Pienaar goal after five minutes gave Everton the lead and Denis Stracqualursi doubled the Toffees’ tally midway through the second half as fourth-placed Chelsea dropped more points.
A 90th-minute goal from Ars-enal legend Thierry Henry gave the Gunners a 2-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light to leave Arsene Wenger’s men level with fourth-placed Chelsea.
James McLean fired Sunderland ahead on 70 minutes before Aaron Ramsey levelled for the Gunners five minutes later. Loan-signing Henry then volleyed in the winner deep into injury time to sink the Black Cats.
Blackburn climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers at Ewood Park.
Ayegbeni Yakubu and Steven Nzonzi put Rovers 2-0 up before new QPR signing Nedum Onuoha’s own goal piled on the misery for Rangers. Substitute Jamie Mackie scored twice for Rangers in the second half, but it was too little, too late.
Wigan grabbed only their fourth win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.
Gary Caldwell put Wigan 1-0 up on 43 minutes before Mark Davies levelled for Wanderers in the 67th minute. James McArthur struck 14 minutes from time to seal the three points.
New Fulham signing Pavel Pogrebnyak scored a goal on his debut as the Cottagers beat Stoke 2-1. Clint Dempsey set up Fulham’s second with a long-range strike that deflected in off Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen before Ryan Shawcross gave Stoke hope 12 minutes from time.
Norwich came from behind to down Swansea 3-2 at the Liberty Stadium, with Grant Holt scoring twice and Anthony Pilkington bagging the Canaries’ third after Danny Graham had put the home side 1-0 up.
Graham raised hopes of a fightback for the Swans with a late penalty, but Norwich hung on.