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Time for a truce between warring rivals

Luis Suarez follows Patrice Evra off the pitch at Old Trafford on Saturday.
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Nick Webster

Nick Webster has been the voice of the Barclays Premier League, FIFA World Cup's and UEFA European Championships in America since 2001. Insightful, provocative and entertaining, you'll always find him at the heartbeat of the action with stories that matter.
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What’s in a handshake? Saturday in Manchester gave us another reason to ask.

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For me, a handshake is a way to acknowledge the presence of another human being. It can be heartfelt or it can be insincere, but one thing is for sure, it can’t be cowardly.

In my world, real men shake hands.

The decision by Liverpool’s Luis Suarez not to shake hands with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra before kick-off at Old Trafford was that of a troubled man who has been indulged his whole life because he can kick a ball better than 99.9 per cent of the world’s population.

Having not been on the pitch when Suarez was accused of racially abusing Evra, I cannot attest to what words resulted in his eight-game suspension, but what is obvious is that the Uruguayan is a man who has a track record of making miserable choices. Wherever Suarez has gone, sublime skill, goals and an appetite for controversy and trouble have invariably followed. On Saturday, this appetite got the better of him. Again.

One has to ask whether Liverpool and, in particular, Kenny Dalglish can continue to blindly support this wayward genius. The type of knee-jerk reaction displayed Saturday by Dalglish, a living legend who should know better, summed up the ignorant loyalty Suarez has enjoyed to date.

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“I think you are very severe and bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today, right," he said to Sky Sports reporter Geoff Shreeves, who had the temerity to ask King Kenny why his striker refused to shake hands.

Dalglish’s reaction just added fuel to the fire, something that Liverpool owner John W. Henry must have been quick to recognize. Why else the immediate apology yesterday by both Suarez and Dalglish? I just wish it were honor and sportsmanship that prompted this instead, because ultimately no one should be bigger than the club. But I have a sneaking suspicion it was more about the bottom line.

John W. Henry is more than aware that he has a PR disaster on his hands, and he is also conscious of the fact that organizations looking at investing in this once proud club now have an excuse for second thoughts. I certainly would think twice before investing right now.

So just why is the handshake before the game so important?

I think it establishes a connection to reality. It brings real life to the table, and regardless of how you feel about a fellow human being, touch has a way of bringing us together - of establishing a bond. Right now, football needs all the bonds it can get. The game I know feels like it's slipping into some kind of anarchy.

I mean who is running the asylum?

Patrice Evra celebrates Manchester United's victory in front of Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. (Photo by Jon Super/AP Images)

The English Football Association has become a laughing stock. The players seemingly do as they wish. The clubs idly stand by as their employees embarrass them while Twitter is the chosen form of communication. One hundred forty characters or less? Please. I mean, what can you say in 140 characters other than complete nonsense?

I fully realize we can’t return to an earlier time, when sportsmanship was practised on a regular and accepted basis. This was a time when fans of opposing teams would stand together and players would have a pint with each other after the game. That feels like a thousand generations ago, but surely there must be some common ground we can find amongst all this tribalism.

Are the players and fans of Manchester United and Liverpool really so different?

At the moment the 34 miles that separate Old Trafford and Anfield feels like 34,000 miles, but that gap can be closed. The divisions that have the power to divide us also have the power to unite. English football must find the common ground to bring all sides together.

Ultimately, moving this story to a place where everyone feels like they’ve 'got theirs' isn’t going to happen. However, I believe that a press conference involving Sir Alex Ferguson, Patrice Evra, Kenny Dalglish and Luis Suarez would go a long way to putting this issue into the proper perspective.

Both sides must see the big picture, and what that means is being men. They must look each other in the eye and shake hands. They must do this not for themselves, but for football.

Nick Webster is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering the Barclays Premier League and the English national team.

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