May 16 2012
Patrice Evra has described this season as the most difficult of his entire career and lifted the lid on the emotions he felt when Luis Suarez snubbed his pre-match handshake at Old Trafford.
Evra has remained silent over the entire Suarez affair since he first raised allegations of racism against the Liverpool forward at Anfield in October. Suarez was eventually hit by an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine by the Football Association.
However, his continued protestations of innocence and the manner with which the entire situation was handled by Liverpool drew widespread criticism, which turned to anger when Suarez opted not to shake Evra's hand when the two sides met again in the reverse fixture in February. "The whole thing was so difficult," said Evra.
Evra had admitted he was so furious he could easily have been sent off for his first tackle, which ended up toppling team-mate Rio Ferdinand, and he can now explain his over-the-top celebrations at the final whistle were a release from the pressure he was under and a show of gratitude for the United supporters who had continued to stand by him.
"People thought my celebration at the end of the Liverpool game was because Suarez had abused me, but it was more than that," added Evra. "I wanted say thanks to my team-mates. I know everybody was playing to win for Manchester United, but it was also a little bit for me.
"That game was the most pressure I've ever felt in my life - and all to do with shaking his hand. It was very difficult to decide what to do before the game. Many people would never try to shake his hand. But I tried and he refused.
"For me, it was like, "What's going on?" You see the first tackle, a tackle on Rio Ferdinand? If it was Suarez then I could have had a red card straight away and I'd have been off the pitch."
It would be fair to say that the period around those initial racism allegations was hugely traumatic for Evra - for only a week later came a telephone call that stopped him completely in his tracks, the death of his 42-year-old brother.
"What's happened to me this year, personal things, have been really tough," said Evra. "I know people will think I'm only saying this because we've lost the title but this is the most difficult season I've ever had for Manchester United.
"Before the game against Manchester City in October my dad called to tell me I'd just lost my brother. Nothing can be more difficult than that to find out before a big game. When you add the Suarez case as well, I am very proud of myself."