Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes his omission from the starting line-up for his final match against Manchester United was “a classic case of muscle-flexing” by boss Brendan Rodgers.
Gerrard, who announced at the start of the year that he would be leaving Anfield at the end of the 2014/15 season, had thought he was in line for a recall ahead of his last meeting with the Reds’ fierce rivals in March.
He was surprisingly left on the bench, though, before being introduced at half-time – only to be sent off after just 38 seconds for sinking his studs into Ander Herrera in what turned out to be a 2-1 defeat.
Gerrard reveals in his autobiography – ‘My Story’, being serialised in the Daily Mail – that he was summoned to Rodgers’ office before training a couple of days prior to the match, with the manager telling him he would not be starting.
“‘Okay’, I nodded. ‘I respect your decision’,” Gerrard wrote. “We left it at that. I walked out and got ready for training. My mind was swimming. I couldn’t believe it. It felt to me, then, like a classic case of muscle-flexing.
“My relationship with Brendan was too good for him to need to make a point to me. He was someone I respected and liked: his training sessions were among the best I had ever experienced while his man-management was excellent, generous and imaginative.
“But I wondered if this was his way of showing the press that he was strong enough to make a difficult decision.”
Gerrard said the “anger in the caged animal grew and grew” during the first half of the match, leading to the red card. And following a “fair, but slamming tackle” on Juan Mata, Gerrard found himself coming face to face with Herrera.
The 35-year-old wrote: “I completed a simple pass as Herrera came flying in with his sliding tackle. His right leg stretched out invitingly on the Anfield turf. I couldn’t stop myself.
“Without even giving myself time to think I brought my left foot stamping down on Herrera. I felt my studs sink into his flesh just above the ankle. It had to have hurt him.”