Rooney: I admire Suarez & we’ll respect Liverpool if they win the league

The Manchester United striker notes that off-field troubles have hampered the Liverpool star’s career at times but feels his desire to succeed on the pitch can only be praised

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney says he “can’t help but admire” Liverpool counterpart Luis Suarez and says that his side will begrudgingly have to respect their rivals if they win the title.

The Uruguayan has enjoyed a hugely prolific season – boasting 24 goals and 10 assists in 23 Premier League games – but missed the first six fixtures of the season due to his ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

Rooney hinted at Suarez’s past misdemeanours – including a suspension for racially abusing United left-back Patrice Evra – but the England man admits his determination to succeed is highly commendable.

“People say Suarez is a street footballer like me, but I’d bet where he grew up in Uruguay was a lot tougher than where I grew up in Liverpool,” he told the Daily Mirror.

“Anyone who knows football can see he’s got that fight and desire in him. He’ll do anything to be successful.

“Now and then it all goes wrong for him, but as a footballer, I can’t help but admire him.”

Liverpool travel to Old Trafford 11 points clear of United in the league and fully in the race for the Premier League title, while David Moyes’ side retain only a slim chance of finishing in the top-four.

He continued: “If Liverpool win the league, it will be down to the fact that they are the best team in the country. No one at United will like that, but we will still have to respect them for the achievement.

“We want to win because of what it means to us. This is a massive period. Liverpool, then Olympiacos in the Champions League [this Wednesday] and next week it’s the derby against Manchester City.

“Those games will go a long way to shaping our season. We still haven’t given up on fourth place and we also think the tie against Olympiacos is retrievable.

“If we win, then it will give us a lot of confidence that the season is still alive. It’s a big challenge – but for as long as I’ve been at Manchester United we have always relished big challenges.

“It was the end of an era when Sir Alex Ferguson left, but it wasn’t the end of Manchester United. It’s been a ­ disappointing season for us so far, but anyone who thinks that this is the start of a decline couldn’t be more wrong.

“This is a one-off. This season has been a blip. There will be no more backwards steps for Manchester United. We are only looking forward.”

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