It was predictable, I suppose, that Man U would find time in celebrating their hollow title triumph to have a pop at the enemy down the other end of the East Lancs road. It’s in their DNA to crow instead of celebrating with dignity as truly great clubs do – and so inevitably the evening couldn’t go by without some reference to the latest glitch from Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. Liverpool are a problem for Man U. They oozed class to utterly out-perform all the competition back when that competition was a lot broader-based than it is today. They’ve still got more European Cups. For a club so obsessed with size and success, so insecure in the face of genuine rivalry, it stings the Trafford-based giants that a relatively close neighbour has been so historically successful. Man U don’t take that sort of thing kindly, and Ferguson’s poisonous hatred of Liverpool has trickled down like escaping acid through the fabric of his club, leaving the suppurating sores of bitter envy at all levels.
Even given this long-standing hatred of Liverpool, born of the envy and insecurity that riddles Old Trafford, the display on Monday evening of the not-exactly-admirable defender Evra was pushing hard at the far boundaries of decency and good taste. A joke “severed limb” was thrown onto the pitch from the jubilant home fans – this is the kind of thing Man U fans are rather prone to, with a record of similar perversions of class and comportment many times in the past. They tend to squeal loud and long though if anyone offers them like treatment; such is the one-way street of the Man U supporters’ moral code.
So there’s this silly toy on the pitch and – no doubt seeking to please and impress his adoring fans, Evra had to pick it up and mime having a bite out of it. It’s not a particularly edifying image, but of course Evra and Suarez are not exactly bosom buddies. Be that as it may, such a very unsubtle reference to the hot-headed and idiotic actions of the Uruguayan a couple of days previously at Anfield was – to say the least – unhelpful and unwelcome. Suarez has stupidly offered himself as a target yet again for a press and public that has been eager to condemn him ever since his dispute with Evra, a situation in which the Frenchman shared a lot of any blame going. But Suarez has been hunted ever since, any slip highlighted, most of the praise that his sparkling play deserves only grudgingly meted out.
The point of all this is, of course, that the actions of Suarez, stupid and needless though they may be, ARE invariably taken in the heat of the moment, when he is in the middle of some competitive vortex on the field. Evra, on the other hand was relaxed and celebrating, high on the moment of triumph no doubt, but not caught up in the white heat of conflict. And yet he still chose to do this tasteless thing, in cold blood, and subject us all to the spectacle of his gloating mug on the back pages, glorying in the opportunity to heap further ridicule on a fellow professional. An unpleasant and despicable individual, as well as being not one tenth the player that Suarez undeniably is, as he’s always proving.
It always seems to be Man U that are highlighted indulging in unpleasant schoolboy skits like this. They used to have a reputation for class and impeccable conduct, even under the slightly shady rule of the Edwards family. That good reputation is long gone. The modern tendency to revel in the misfortunes and dilemmas of others seems bred into them by their coarse and choleric manager, a man who values the siege complex and nurtures this out of the hate his teams’ conduct inspires. Suarez has – probably rightly – copped a long ban for his daft action, which gained him nothing and certainly reflected ill on the game. His conduct was inexcusable, but for a hothead like Suarez there are always reasons, and it seems that every now and again, he will simply run out of self-control. It’s in his temperamental and hot-blooded nature for this to be so, and sadly that runs against the grain in a colder country than his native Uruguay.
But what’s worse – this instinctive tendency of the Liverpool striker to get carried away in the moment and either lash out or bite off more than he can chew? Or the sly and nasty, calculated and measured breach of taste perpetrated by Evra, a man usually more sinning than sinned against, and whose actions appear inexplicably to draw nothing more than a fond smile from the Man U-centric media?
I know what I think. Silly lad, Suarez. Nasty git, Evra.