When Kenny Dalglish sensationally stood down as manager the day after the remarkable 4-4 F.A. cup 5th round replay with Everton at Goodison Park on the 20th of February 1991, the club turned to 56 year old Ronnie Moran to look after first-team matters until a permanent successor to Dalglish could be named. Moran was the obvious candidate to come to the rescue in a crisis. After all he had been involved at Anfield in one capacity or another since the early 1950’s and knew the club inside out.
One thing was clear though. Ronnie was happy to cover the manager’s post for a temporary period but he wasn’t looking to secure the job on a full-time basis. He inherited a team that was top of the table and still very much involved in the race for the championship with Arsenal. Ronnie’s first task was to lift the gloom around the club and prepare the first-team for a visit to Luton the following Saturday. The whole club still seemed to be in shock after Dalglish’s departure, although that can’t be used as an excuse for a tame 3-1 defeat at Kenilworth Road. The next two matches were lost as well, the F.A. cup 2nd replay at Goodison and more crucially the home league fixture with title rivals Arsenal, decided by Paul Merson’s second-half goal.
But three defeats were followed by three victories, the 3rd of which was a stunning 7-1 triumph at the Baseball Ground against soon-to-be-relegated Derby County on a day when the Reds went back to the top of the table because of Arsenal‘s failure to win at Norwich. But the two Easter fixtures ended in disappointing defeats, at home to QPR and away to Southampton, and those results put Arsenal firmly in charge of the championship’s destiny. Ronnie Moran would stay in charge for only two more matches, an uninspiring 1-1 home draw with Coventry and an astonishing game at Elland Road against Leeds, which Liverpool won 5-4 after holding a 4-0 lead with less than a third of the match played.
There had been constant rumours about who was going to succeed Dalglish as manager and most of those rumours seemed to centre on Graeme Souness at Glasgow Rangers. It looked as if the club’s former skipper would be unveiled as the new manager at the end of the season but as media interest escalated it made his position at Ibrox almost untenable and he eventually moved south just before Liverpool were due to play Norwich City at Anfield on the 20th of April 1991.
Ronnie Moran had been a willing deputy for a few weeks but his record was modest (4 victories, 1 draw, 5 defeats). He was probably somewhat relieved when he could return to a role where the spotlight wouldn’t be on him so much. Despite that, he was happy to deputise again the following year when Graeme Souness announced to the world after the drawn F.A. cup semi-final with Portsmouth that he would be admitted to hospital almost immediately for heart-surgery. Ronnie was in charge for the final 7 league matches of that 1991-92 season plus the successful F.A. cup semi-final replay with Portsmouth (the first to be decided on penalties) before Graeme Souness returned for the cup final (closely watched by a doctor) with Ronnie having the honour of leading the Liverpool team out on the big day at Wembley.
Profile by Chris Wood, January 2005