Ferguson empathises with Liverpool

Luis Suarez. Photo: Press Association Images

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Liverpool were wise not to try to head off a lengthy ban for Luis Suarez by imposing one of their own - having vowed Manchester United would never do it again either.

Ferguson claimed he could understand why Liverpool are aggrieved at the punishment handed down to Suarez for biting Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield last weekend.

However, the United boss does not think the penalty even comes close to the harsh manner in which Eric Cantona was treated by the Football Association in 1995 following his kung-fu kick on Matthew Simmons after being sent off at Crystal Palace.

At the end of his court hearing, United, following guidance received from the FA, suspended Cantona for the remainder of the season - a period of four months - believing that would be the end of the matter.

Instead, the FA launched its own action, and increased Cantona's ban to eight months.

So incensed was the Frenchman by this, he threatened to quit English football completely, and Ferguson needed all his powers of persuasion to talk him out of it.

But the United boss has never forgotten.

And should he ever find himself in the middle of a similarly complicated row, he will not be doing the FA's bidding, with then spokesman and eventual executive director David Davies coming in for particular criticism.

"I bet they are glad they didn't (suspend Suarez themselves)," Ferguson said. "It didn't work for us.

"David Davies promised us if we did it there would be no more action taken.

"Think about that. A nine-month ban. It is quite incredible. I still can't get my head round it."

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio yesterday revealed his astonishment at the biting incident.

Di Canio, of course, served an 11-game suspension back in 1998 after pushing referee Paul Alcock to the ground during his playing days at Sheffield Wednesday.

The Italian, who admitted he could better understand France international Zinedine Zidane's headbutt on Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final, joked that Suarez had not beaten him, but swiftly spoke of his own enduring remorse and his surprise at the Uruguay forward's actions.

"He didn't beat me - I was 11 [games suspended]. That's a joke, obviously," Di Canio said.

"My gesture was a very bad, stupid gesture, but not a violent gesture because it was a push like a kid when you are young.

"But anyway, it was bad. It wasn't really a fair play gesture - it was very bad.

"But this one is difficult to judge for one reason: because it is unusual to see in a normal situation.

"I can understand Zidane. I don't excuse him, but if someone is swearing in your face, talking about your mama, your wife, you can lose your temper.

"In this situation, I don't know what has happened, but it is clear from the pictures that there was normal pressure from Ivanovic and you see the player pull one arm and try to bite.

"It's something that looks strange. It can't kill him, but it's something not really good to watch."

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini had some sympathy for Suarez, though, and felt the punishment did not fit the crime.

He said: "Sometimes (the FA) takes a strange decision. If you want my opinion, this is strange. Ten games I think is too much.

"I don't know if this is worse than other tackles or situations. I think that five, six games was enough."