London: Luis Suarez`s refusal to shake hands with Patrice Evra overshadowed Manchester United`s 2-1 win over rival Liverpool that lifted the defending champions to first place in the Premier League on Saturday.
Wayne Rooney scored twice for the second straight match to guide United to victory at Old Trafford. But all the focus was on the pre-match handshake that never happened, inflaming tensions between England`s two most successful clubs.
Starting his first match since serving an eight-game ban for racially abusing Evra during a league match at Anfield on Oct. 15, Suarez withdrew his hand as the France defender put forward his in the traditional ritual before kickoff.
"He is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club," United manager Alex Ferguson. "He shouldn`t be able to play for Liverpool again."
Police and stewards reportedly had to intervene as players from both teams clashed outside the locker rooms at halftime after Evra chased Suarez down the tunnel.
Evra then appeared to attempt to provoke Suarez with exuberant post-match celebrations on the field in front of the Uruguay striker, also forcing police officers to intervene.
Amid the mayhem, United managed to take an overnight lead in the standings, tightening the pressure on Manchester City ahead of its trip to Aston Villa on Sunday.
Third-place Tottenham stayed five points behind United by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 at home, while the fight for fourth place intensified following Chelsea`s 2-0 loss at Everton and Arsenal`s 2-1 victory at Sunderland.