Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed Luis Suarez is "laden with controversy".
Suarez returns to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since he refused to shake Patrice Evra's hand to defuse the row that engulfed Liverpool and Manchester United when the Uruguayan racially abused his opponent at Anfield in October 2011.
Suarez was at the centre of more negative headlines at the weekend when he scored a goal at Mansfield that should clearly have been ruled out for handball. "I didn't see the Mansfield game, so it's difficult to say if it was deliberate or not," said Ferguson. "But I think the lad is laden with controversy. I don't know if he enjoys it or not."
The striker has been on top form this term, scoring 15 Premier League goals, just one fewer than Robin van Persie. Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers has already leapt to Suarez's defence, although Ferguson can see elements of his own management style in that.
"You're always going to support your own player," he said. "That's not surprising from Brendan Rogers. 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."
Indeed, Ferguson wants the action to be concentrated on the pitch, rather than the obvious animosity between two sets of fans spill over as it has done in the past.
"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."
That passion endures even though Liverpool are now approaching 23 years since the last of their 18 championships. The Reds are presently 21 points adrift of United, stuck in mid-table and a tough task ahead of them just to reclaim a place in the Champions League.
After the ill-fated second spell of Kenny Dalglish, Ferguson believes Rodgers needs the patience of owner John Henry, saying: "Patience is a real commodity in football and if Brendan's getting that then he's very lucky. It's terrific if Liverpool fans are prepared to be patient because it's going to require it because it's a long way back to where they used to be.
"It is difficult to measure the Liverpool side of the moment against those teams of the past. For any young manager, it is going to be a challenge. They haven't won the league for more than 20 years. It's a long time for a club like Liverpool."