Sunday 21 January 2018

Ronnie Whelan: 'I feel for Steven Gerrard, he should've been on the pitch from very start'

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, second left, is sent off less than a minute after coming on
Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, second left, is sent off less than a minute after coming on

STEVEN Gerrard is left to reflect today on the reality of a professional footballer's life. The game is, more often than not, unkind to heroes and never short of a custard pie to remind us of that fact.

It can't feel good that this one was delivered by his own manager Brendan Rodgers (pictured). Gerrard should have started this game. It was made for him.

And Raheem Sterling should not have started as a right-wing back. That one had me scratching my head. Rodgers got this one wrong.

I felt for Gerrard. Like anyone with a passion for Liverpool, he must have sat watching a first half against Manchester United which was everything that was bad about the team this season.

This was November revisited with hardly a tackle made in anger and Manchester United allowed the freedom of Anfield. To be fair to them, they took full advantage.

But it was the limp response to Manchester United's pressing game which annoyed me and must have made Gerrard's blood boil. He was ready for a war when he came on but his emotions got the better of him and his last chance to make a difference against a team he loved to play against went up in smoke.

He'll miss the game against Arsenal and the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Blackburn and he'll have the next two weeks to digest how messy and frustrating his final season at Anfield has turned out to be.

Despite the slip-up against Chelsea which cost his team so much last season, I'm sure Gerrard quickly got over that disappointment and before heading off to the World Cup in Brazil, must have been looking forward to the new Premier League season with plenty of optimism. As far as he knew at that point, there was no immediate end in sight to his time with the club. I'll bet that right now, he can't get to Los Angeles quick enough.

The red card did have a big impact on the game. Liverpool played much better in the second half and you could argue that they might have dragged a point out of it if Gerrard had stayed on the pitch.

But if Liverpool don't make it to the top four by the end of the season, it won't be down to Steven Gerrard so he shouldn't beat himself up too much about this one.

Defeat by United at home makes Champions League qualification a difficult task now and Liverpool have to head to Arsenal after the international break.


I don't think the race for Champions League football is by any means decided even if there is a significant gap. There will be further twists ,although it does look like Louis van Gaal has found a way to make Manchester United look a lot more convincing when they are winning football matches.

On this form, Manchester United will comfortably claim fourth place and could go higher than that.

This is a big week ahead for Martin O'Neill and Ireland and there were a few nicely timed positive signs over the weekend.

Well done to John O'Shea for winning the FAI/Soccer Writers' Player of the Year award. Well deserved if for no other reason than that never-to-be-forgotten goal against Germany.

Seamus Coleman, having a poor season by his standards, got on the score sheet for Everton and Shane Long proved his fitness in the best way possible by helping Southampton bank three points against Burnley.

The gap since Scotland has been painfully long and it is very hard to predict how O'Neill's players will come together for a crucial game against Poland.

At least O'Neill and Keane will have him them for a week. The priority will be to make everyone who starts against Poland hit the ground running in the first few seconds.

I know people are making a lot of Poland's good start to the group and the fact that they beat Germany but I've watched that game a few times now and they were remarkably fortunate. Germany had a dozen chances to score goals and missed. They should have at least drawn the game and I'm sure Poland are as good as their reputation.

As I write, there is no news of injuries and I can only hope that we won't have another bulletin out of Goodison Park in the next 24 hours. The Everton axis of James McCarthy and Coleman will be very important to Ireland in this game and years to come.

We need them to be fit and available.

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