Passion and respect! Rodgers and Sir Alex set tone before Anfield showdown
21:48 GMT, 21 September 2012
Brendan Rodgers says he came to
Liverpool seeking ‘peace and satisfaction’. At Anfield on Sunday, he may
get one but it is certain he won’t get the other.
Satisfaction is attainable on the day
Manchester United come to town. A win or a draw coupled with a
dignified tribute to the Hillsborough dead will see Rodgers head home to
the Formby Coast happy enough.
Big test ahead: Sir Alex Ferguson speaks during a press conference at Carrington on Friday morning
Whatever happens, though, this will be an emotional, visceral day. The peace and the quiet will have to wait.
‘This is a game that is emotionally charged and it’s difficult,’ said Rodgers.
Four Barclays Premier League games into his time at Anfield and Liverpool’s young manager faces his biggest test. United at home is always a raw afternoon but this time it carries increased significance.
There is the attendant focus of a
pre-match Hillsborough tribute and the possibility of another meeting
between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. It is also possible — although
perhaps unlikely — that by tea time Liverpool could be bottom of the
league table for the first time in more than half a century.
Competitive: (left-right) Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Samed Yesil battle in training on Friday
Keen eye: Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers (second right) oversees training at Melwood
Rodgers didn’t look troubled by any of this. He rarely looks troubled by
anything. He understands the significance of the game, though. His
shoulders — he says — are plenty broad enough.
‘I’m comfortable,’ he said. ‘Yes, absolutely. First and foremost you
want to be a pillar of support. You know what these (Hillsborough)
families have been through over the last 23 years. I am also sure of the
hope that they can get from the tribute on Sunday and everyone there
will recognise that. I am happy.
‘This is about life here at Liverpool. It’s not just about a coming in
at half nine and doing a coaching session and going home again.
‘But I am more than comfortable to represent the support here on and off the field.
‘As I have said when I first came in, I am really one of them. The only
difference is that I get to stand on the side and work with the
Over the course of the last 10 days, both Liverpool and United have
struck the right tone ahead of this game. Certainly both managers have
At United, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t need telling. He attended the
Hillsborough service at Anfield that followed the tragedy in 1989 and
has found the right words and — in writing to his away support — the
right deeds once again 23 years on.
The Scot tried to keep his dialogue with the media to the football. At
Liverpool they appreciated that. He was right, though, to caution
against trying to take too much heat out of an occasion notable down the
years for its intensity.
‘I don’t think anything will change in terms of the animosity towards each other,’ he said. ‘No question of that.
‘What can change is going beyond the pale, the chants that refer to
Munich or Hillsborough or whatever. I think and hope that this is the
end of that. And then they can fight as much as they like.’
Ferguson’s last comment was delivered with a smile and was not meant
literally. It’s a moot point, though. Try and take the feeling out of
games between Liverpool and United and you may as well watch something
Rodgers grew up in Northern Ireland watching these games on TV in his grandfather’s sitting room. He understands them already.
He spoke of contributions to the fixture made by fellow countrymen
Norman Whiteside and Sammy McIlroy while a chance encounter with former
Anfield powerhouse Steve McMahon will also have served to remind him
just how much Liverpudlians want to win.
Respect: Everton and Newcastle showed their support on Monday for the 96 victims of the disaster
He has had some contact with Ferguson. The United manager wrote to him
after he was dismissed by Reading in 2009 and was by all accounts
complimentary after his team beat Swansea last season.
Some endeavoured to draw comparisons between Rodgers’ arrival at Anfield
and Ferguson’s at Old Trafford in 1986. They had a point, too.
Liverpool are currently without a league title for 22 years while United
had been waiting 19 on the day Ferguson strode in to town aged 44.
Neither manager particularly warmed to the theme, though.
Ferguson said, rather peculiarly, that: ‘Liverpool had success last year
in the Carling Cup’. Perhaps he had forgotten that United lifted the FA
Cup in the year preceding his own arrival.
Rodgers, meanwhile, said: ‘I am my own man. When he arrived at
Manchester United he had been a manager for a long period of time, he
had won trophies.
‘I don’t think there are too many comparisons other than when he entered there in 1986 he had a massive job to do.
‘It was a failing school. He was having to pick it up from his knees.
For me, the similarities are only that I have come in to an incredible
Before kick-off the obligations of both clubs and both sets of
supporters are obvious. From a football standpoint, United will seek
their first convincing away showing while Liverpool will pursue an
opening league victory.
In that context, perhaps Liverpool’s need is slightly greater. And they
have done well here against their old rivals in recent years.
‘We just want one win,’ said Rodgers optimistically. ‘Then we will start to fly.'