Sky Sports’ pundit Gary Neville has explained how despite Manchester United’s incredible dominance under Sir Alex, and their refusal to change their playing style for anyone, the one player and team this policy was altered for was Steven Gerrard and Liverpool.
The Rangers manager is rewriting the rules in Scotland as we speak, with some sterling form and a new lease of life, but it’s his mastery in his playing days that forced Man Utd into rewriting theirs for two matches a season.
Neville, a huge part of this side, explains:
“For about two or three seasons he (Gerrard) was dropping into that right channel and we were defending conventionally. Then we changed and, if he could, Sir Alex Ferguson always put Anderson on the left of midfield and Ryan Giggs tucked in narrow. It didn’t matter who was running wide, just make sure you are against Steven Gerrard. Don’t go with the decoys and distractions – stay with Gerrard. For three or four years we stopped Gerrard and nullified him. We changed the way we played, and very rarely did Manchester United change the way we played for a team, but Gerrard made us do that.”
It is an indication of just how special a player Gerrard was that a rampaging colossus like Man Utd with a manager of the esteem of Sir Alex would rip up their own rules to accommodate him.
That his style made them change theirs. And his style in management is becoming just as much of a punctuation mark. Beating Celtic twice, strolling through Europe, and it’s hugely thanks to Gerrard as manager whose work this season has been remarkable.
Evidently, while it’s early days, he’s taking his playing years through to his management ones.
And Neville, for one, can illustrate with that anecdote just how hard that is to stop.
Incidentally Gerrard’s Liverpool’s league record v that Man Utd who ‘nullified’ him? From 2008 to 2015, P14 W6 D1.