“Gerrard leaves Reds dangling” – How the papers reacted to Liverpool 1-2 Man United

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Liverpool were beaten 2-1 by rivals Man United on Sunday, and we round-up the best of the reaction from the morning newspapers.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 22, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard walks off after being shown a red card during the Premier League match against Manchester United at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mondays are never particularly joyous occasions, but they feel especially depressing the morning after losing a match of such magnitude.

The Reds never got going at any point in a game that could prove so pivotal in the race for Champions League football, and Steven Gerrard’s ridiculous sending off compounded their misery.

Daniel Sturridge‘s second-half consolation was a rare positive on the day, after Juan Mata’s well-taken double, but Brendan Rodgers’ side let themselves down; especially the captain.

Liverpool now lie five points adrift of United, and their next league game, away to Arsenal, now becomes even more vital.

The Liverpool Echo‘s James Pearce felt that, although Gerrard’s petulant stamp on Ander Herrera was unacceptable, there were plenty of other Liverpool players who should blame themselves for the defeat too:

There was no excusing his (Gerrard’s) blatant stamp on Ander Herrera just 40 seconds after his introduction at the start of the second half.

Already a goal down, the Reds’ fate was effectively sealed when United were gifted a numerical advantage. But this wasn’t a contest which hinged on an act of indiscipline. The reality is that prior to Gerrard’s rush of blood, Liverpool simply didn’t turn up. When the stakes were high, too many of Brendan Rodgers’ side went missing.

[…]

This was their opportunity to showcase the progress they have made since that chastening defeat at Old Trafford back in December and climb into the top four. But instead they froze – serving up an error-strewn display which gifted United the initiative.

Ian Doyle of the Echo questioned whether the Reds have the bottle in big matches, after a display reminiscent of the one against Chelsea at Anfield last season:

You can talk tactics. Wing-backs. Stupid stamps. All of that. But there’s one question that will have been nagging at the back of supporters’ minds long after they began trudging home following a dire Anfield afternoon. Does this Liverpool side have the bottle to succeed? 

That might seem a little harsh given there were a plethora of reasons why Brendan Rodgers’ men managed the notable achievement of, for 45 minutes at least, making a bang average Manchester United appear borderline world beaters. 

Yet when the Reds boss sifts through the wreckage, there will be a recurring theme. This was Liverpool’s biggest game of the season. A pivotal moment in the chase for Champions League qualification against their nearest rivals. And they blew it.

Ed Malyon of the Mirror focused on Gerrard’s unbelievably brief cameo, wondering just what on earth the skipper was thinking:

40 seconds. Enough time for Steven Gerrard to come on, promise the most narrative-driven half of football in some time, and then pour petrol on it before dropping the match. 

[…] 

Four successful passes, one unsuccessful, one successful tackle, one tackle received, one stamp doled out, one red card, one long walk. 

From visions of him bounding onto a last-second ball and lashing home the winner in front of the Kop, it was suddenly all aflame. The dream departure he’d built in his head burnt to the ground. 

And there was really little explanation for it. Perhaps it was a case simply of Gerrard being *too* pumped, but in a game where his side were desperate for him to drag them back into it, he instead left them dangling.

The Daily Telegraph‘s Luke Edwards was disappointed with Raheem Sterling’s display, and questioned whether his contract negotiations at Anfield are affecting his game:

Sterling did not start the season well when the friction caused by his protracted contract negotiations first began to emerge and he was out of sorts again here just days after Liverpool confirmed his representatives have told them he will not sign a new deal.  

Talks have been put on hold until the summer, which looks like a delaying tactic designed to attract transfer bids in order to put pressure on Liverpool’s board.  

In the meantime Sterling’s head has been either turned or battered. He disappeared in this game and it is a reminder footballers are human beings, not cash cows.

Barney Ronay of the Guardian felt Emre Can struggled to deal with Marouane Fellaini’s aerial threat, as many predicted, which was a big reason for United’s dominance:

The suspicion had always been that the physical battle between Can and Fellaini would be key, with Fellaini’s bruising, aerial take on the inside-left position always likely to pick at Can’s weak spot as a central defender.  

The first “rapid aerial transition” towards Fellaini’s head duly arrived in the opening seconds and Liverpool were for a while bypassed in midfield. 

Here at times it was almost painful to see Fellaini drift malevolently towards Can, who must have found himself wondering if, all things considered, this was really what he signed up for; a player schooled in pass and move and engineered to German academy standards being battered under the high ball by an angular Belgian repeatedly snaffling the ball into that marsupial pouch he appears to keep somewhere below his chin.

Liverpool have a two-week break now, before heading to the Emirates to face Arsenal on 4th April. Defeat in that game will surely prove fatal in their quest for a top-four finish, but victory would make things very interesting.

Let us know your thoughts on the game in the comments below.

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