Gerrard’s "caged animal anger" unleashed following mocking Man Utd chants

By March 2015 Liverpool were angry.

The giddy title tilt of the previous season was a distant memory, and there was a sense that the club had lost their way under the admirable but still quite green Brendan Rodgers.

Luis Suarez had gone, Daniel Sturridge was suffering with injuries, Raheem Sterling was looking elsewhere and Steven Gerrard, still in a fog from events against Chelsea 11 months previously, was eyeing up a haven from his demons in Los Angeles.

It had turned out that Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert weren't the answer to all this either.

Nor was a visit from a Manchester United side that had recovered from a rocky start under Louis van Gaal to begin to click into gear and get a hold on the top four race.

They were fourth on 56 points heading to Anfield, two ahead of Liverpool on 54, and in front of the watching Pele, no less, they took control of the game early as Rodgers tried to solve mounting problems with frequent – probably too frequent – tactical shifts.

United were just better though. Ander Herrera slipped in Juan Mata to open the scoring at the Kop end, and as the visitors dominated possession, the Liverpool club captain cut an angry figure on the sidelines.

By now Gerrard wasn't so much raging against the dying of the light, more slowly fading from view as he sought to try and make sure that the previous season's cruel ending wasn't the undeserved epitaph to his Liverpool career.

Everyone seemed to be on the same page though. Gerrard needed to be on the pitch in the second half.

He'd be the experienced influence that would drag Liverpool back into the game. He'd know what to do. Wouldn't he?

"As I warmed up on the afternoon, the United fans opened their throats," says Gerrard in his 2015 autobiography.

"They pelted me with abuse — and their favourite song echoed around the away end:

'Steve Gerrard, Gerrard… he slipped on his f***ing 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.

"We had stood off United in the first half and made very few tackles. It went against everything built into my DNA. Tackling and collisions mattered against Manchester United."

Well they certainly mattered here.

Gerrard was brought on as a half-time replacement for Adam Lallana, the very embodiment of replacing style with steel, and there was expectant air around Anfield as the 34-year-old strode to the middle. He wanted this.

He wanted it too much.

"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," Gerrard continues, with that moment greeted by a huge cheer from the home crowd.

"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.

"Herrera clutched his ankle and writhed around on the ground.

"I raised my arm above my head and gestured angrily. I was trying to deflect attention away from me. 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: 'What? Me?'

"'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."

Then came a red card he certainly didn't like the look of. He had been on the pitch for 38 seconds.

And after your gaze is drawn to Gerrard's face in the immediate aftermath of Atkinson's card, the reactions of Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini are the next two that you take in.

Fellaini, the former Everton powerhouse, can scarcely contain himself. He knows that Gerrard's removal has all but secured the points for United. But Rooney, Gerrard's mate from international duty, just sort of stands there. He can't quite believe what's happened.

He wasn't the only one.

Gerrard trudged toward the tunnel and past Rodgers, his face contorted in anger and pain in what was his last act in a Liverpool vs Manchester United fixture, a game he'd played in 35 times, scoring nine goals.

Liverpool's fate was effectively sealed then, and Mata's superb acrobatic volley soon made it two in front of the delighted Anfield Road end.

Sturridge would get one back for the hosts but that was a goal greeted more in surprise than celebration, while United would have won by more had Simon Mignolet not saved a late Rooney penalty.

There was no solace in that for Liverpool though, and none at all for Gerrard.

The anger that consumed him and his team that day was spreading.

It would be just over six months until Jurgen Klopp arrived.

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