In Steven Gerrard’s penultimate game against Manchester United, he was on the losing side at Old Trafford, with us beating them 3-0. Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie were all on the scoresheet.
By the time his final appearance against United came around, Gerrard had confirmed he would be leaving Liverpool for LA Galaxy at the end of the season.
Brendan Rodgers, in all his wisdom, left Gerrard out of the starting line-up and United absolutely bossed it in the first half. Liverpool were flying at the time, clear favourites for replacing us in the top four, but United put in the finest 45 minutes we’d seen at Anfield for a decade or more.
United fans, knowing this would be their last opportunity to give Gerrard a hard time, sang song after song. When warming up on the touchline, with United fans serenading him, he did the five finger salute, letting them know our fans had got to him.
38 seconds after coming on, he was sent off for stamping on Ander Herrera. United went on to win 2-1 and, full of confidence, then thrashed City 4-2 in their next game. A season after costing Liverpool the title, he cost them the Champions League.
In his autobiography, Gerrard has reflected on this occasion.
On the morning of the game, I felt like a caged animal. As I warmed up on the afternoon last March, the United fans opened their throats. They pelted me with abuse — and their favourite song echoed around the away end: ‘Steve Gerrard, Gerrard… he slipped on his f****** arse, he gave it to Demba Ba… Steve Gerrard, Gerrard…’
After a while, when they got bored, they swapped it for another chestnut: ‘You nearly won the league, you nearly won the league… and now you better believe it, now you better believe it, now you better believe it, you nearly won the league.’
The anger in the caged animal grew and grew. United were swaggering, Anfield was very quiet. It was obvious I would come on at half-time. The game restarted, I went in hard with a fair, but slamming tackle on Juan Mata. I cleaned out Mata, who went flying, and I won the ball.
I was involved again, immediately, as Ander Herrera came hurtling towards me to shut down space. I was too quick for him. 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.
I knew I was in trouble. But I’m still a footballer and so I pointed at myself, almost in self-defence, as if to say:
‘Yes, you,’ referee Martin Atkinson’s walk said. I didn’t like the look of his walk. I didn’t like the look of his face.
Wayne Rooney was close by. Wayne looked at me. He knew I was gone. As I left the pitch I asked myself: ‘What have you just done? Are you f****** stupid?’
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