Belfast Telegraph

Shrewd Brendan is the right man for Liverpool... and City

By Kevin Garside

The non-selection of Steven Gerrard against Manchester United in the Premier League a month ago has been a recurring stick with which to beat Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

As the wreckage of FA Cup semi-final failure against Aston Villa is sieved, Gerrard - this time his selection - has become the blunt instrument with which to batter Rodgers once more.

He can't have been wrong twice, surely. The criticism of the Northern Irishman was universal after the 2-1 defeat to United. In the great football chatroom before the Villa loss, there was still incredulity at his failure to recognise the unique contribution Gerrard might have made had he started at Anfield against the red beast from Manchester.

His passion, commitment, leadership and experience was therefore a must to ensure Liverpool contest the FA Cup final on Gerrard's birthday and on what would be his last engagement for the club. We now know the merit of that argument but no admission of muddled thinking so far from those advocating his inclusion.

The impulse to chase Rodgers out of Anfield in favour of this month's winning ticket, Jurgen Klopp, demonstrates the short-termism that infects the football landscape.

There are a few in this arena who would have had Louis van Gaal out of Old Trafford by Christmas. Rodgers might have been voted out twice this season already had the knee-jerkers any influence.

Think back to December when the club sat 10th in the Premier League after the 3-0 defeat to United at Old Trafford. Who would have thought then they would not lose again in the league until the corresponding fixture at Anfield three months later?

The climb up the table was a triumph of coaching. Liverpool hit the heights during that spell when Daniel Sturridge returned, Raheem Sterling discovered his mojo and Philippe Coutinho his shooting boots.

Rodgers had achieved the impossible in that period, absorbing the loss of Luis Suarez and remoulding a faltering squad into a winning team.

The loss to United at Anfield was a result few saw coming. The rout at Arsenal might be seen as a reaction to that, though for a spell in the first half at the Emirates, Liverpool had the ball on a string.

Sterling picks up the shisha pipe and then Liverpool run out of gas against Villa. All of a sudden the disappointment of a potless season feeds into a mad reflex in some quarters to dump the manager.

Rodgers reacted to the limp display on Sunday by hooking Lazar Markovic at half-time and playing his joker, Mario Balotelli. It didn't work, but he gave it a go. The truth is the Liverpool squad is not as deep as those of their rivals for the Champions League.

Rodgers needs a better summer than last year in the transfer market, but then he won't have to replace a genius.

If the long-term cultivation of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad does not bear fruit, it is thought Man City would go for Rodgers. And they would be right.

Belfast Telegraph


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