Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has branded Liverpool striker Luis Suarez ‘laden with controversy’ ahead of their clash on Sunday.
The Uruguay international has been in superb form for Brendan Rodgers’ team this season, netting 15 league goals to leave himself one behind league leader Robin van Persie.
However, the 25-year-old striker was once again in the headlines after appearing to handle the ball to score in the Reds’ 2-1 FA Cup win over Mansfield Town last Saturday, and Ferguson feels the star may even enjoy the attention.
“I didn’t see the Mansfield game, so it’s difficult to say if it was deliberate (handball) or not,” he told reporters. “But I think (Suarez) is laden with controversy. I don’t know if he enjoys it or not.”
Liverpool manager Rodgers has come out in support of his star forward, and claims he would not swap Suarez for United’s lethal centre-forward van Persie.
Ferguson suggested all managers will defend their own players in the face of such criticism – but hopes his side do not suffer from yet another controversial incident involving Suarez on Sunday.
He continued: “You’re always going to support your own player. That’s not surprising from Brendan Rodgers. I’ve done it myself. It’s part of your loyalty and protection of the player.
“I just hope we don’t suffer from some of the decisions that went Suarez’s way on Sunday.”
Suarez was banned for eight games by the FA after racially abusing Patrice Evra during a match between at Anfield in 2011, and caused further controversy for refusing to shake the left-back’s hand last season.
Despite the recent tensions and the historical rivalry between the two clubs, Ferguson hopes the match will be an entertaining game where the players – and not the officials – decide the result.
”We’ve got the two most successful clubs in the country and you hope it’s a good game,” he said.
“Over the years they’ve been relatively free from controversy. No sensational decisions have marred the game.
“It is always an immensely important game. It is intense and emotional. Everything you can think of in a derby game will probably be there.”