The fuse was lit before kick-off. As the cameras zoomed in on the handshake ceremony, walking along the line behind Jordan Henderson, Luis Suarez greeted the Manchester United mascot, and then reached very deliberately past Patrice Evra's outstretched hand.
The Liverpool striker snubbed the Frenchman's advances, and clasped the extended hand of David De Gea obliviously stood next to him instead. An angry Evra grabbed the arm of Suarez, who pulled away and continued down the line. Rio Ferdinand then refused to even acknowledge the Uruguayan.
Those tuning in across the planet were presented with the picture of Suarez further offending an opponent he had been found guilty of racially abusing. For a club such as Liverpool, that prides itself on its renown around the world, those pictures were a PR disaster.
The South American is gifted enough to make any point he cares to United with his feet, as he showed by scoring yesterday, rather than with his hands. He owes it to his employers, incredibly loyal ones, and everybody associated with Anfield, to behave with more decorum.
His actions did not sit comfortably with Sir Alex Ferguson either: "I couldn't believe Suarez refused Evra's handshake," he said. "You saw the referee [Phil Dowd]. He didn't know what to do. It was a terrible start to the game and it created a terrible atmosphere.
"Suarez is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club. He should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. He could have caused a riot.
"Racism is an important issue and football has come a long way since the days of bananas being thrown at John Barnes."
As well as the handshake controversy, the two sets of players were involved in yet more unsavoury scenes, reportedly clashing in the tunnel at half-time before Liverpool players reacted angrily to Evra's celebrations at the full-time whistle.
The United boss believes Evra "kept his dignity" by offering to shake Suarez's hand, but did not condone the defender's post-match celebrations.
"Evra shouldn't have jumped in front of Suarez in celebration at the end," he admitted. "He shouldn't have done that."
The focus on the pre-match handshake, which is part of the Football Association's 'Respect' campaign, was just as intense a fortnight ago in an FA Cup match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.
QPR defender Anton Ferdinand - the younger brother of Rio - was spared having to decide whether to shake the hand of John Terry when the FA allowed the teams to forego the ritual.
That match was the first meeting of the west London rivals since Terry was alleged to have racially abused Ferdinand during a Premier League match in October.
Why wasn't the same common sense approach applied yesterday? In fact, is there any real need for the handshake ceremony at all.
The so-called 'respect' campaign has turned into something of a pantomime ever since Terry was involved in another incident - this time with former Chelsea and England teammate Wayne Bridge - in a game against Manchester City, after an affair with the City star's partner.
The reality is that some players in football just don't like each other, and should not be forced to shake hands before a highly charged game of football. After all, it's not unheard of opponents congratulating each other behind closed doors after a match, when the tensions have died down - a mark of respect, acknowledgement - a fine example of gentlemanly conduct.
Yesterday's game should be best remembered for the impressive performance of Wayne Rooney, whose two goals early in the second half lifted Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League table.
But no, the soap opera surrounding Evra and Suarez continues to rumble on. We only have ourselves to blame.