These excerpts are courtesy The Daily Mail.
Here’s what he said:
“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.
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.
While we waited for the second half to start, I looked around Anfield, my ancient battleground, and did a last few warm-ups, rotating my torso from the hips, tugging at my shorts, impatient for the game to get under way.
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.
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:
‘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?’
It had taken me just 38 seconds to get myself sent off against Manchester United. Thirty-eight seconds in which I had been at the heart of every small cameo of action and ferocious display of rage. It had been, in the end, 38 seconds defined by anger and a kind of madness.
Before the Premier League game against United at Anfield on March 22, I believed I would start in what would be my final match against them.
Earlier in the season, Brendan Rodgers had given me a clear-cut message. ‘Even though I’m managing your games it’s important for you to understand that I’m trying to help you stay fresh. I can’t be flogging you every game because I won’t get the best out of you. Sometimes, I’ll give you a break and you’ll come back fresh and you’ll do well.’
Brendan then said, just as I was getting up to leave: ‘Look, I also want you to know one more thing. If we’ve got a very important game, a crucial game in the league or a cup final, then it’s obvious. You’re my No 1 pick. I put you in, and you’re my captain. What you’ve given me since I’ve walked through this door, made my mind up a long time ago. If we’ve got a big game, you’re in…’
We were out of the Champions League and the title was long gone. But we were closing in on fourth place, and Manchester United at home felt like the biggest game of the season. So I felt confident I would be selected.
I trained really well on the Wednesday and felt sharper and hungrier than anyone in the squad. That night I received a text from the manager: ‘You’ve trained so well the last couple of days, can we have a chat? Can you come to my office in the morning before training?’
I was already in bed but I replied instantly: ‘Yeah no problem, thanks.’
I might have sounded casual in my text but I was much more excited in my bed. I read Brendan’s text again.
‘I’m going to be back in the team here,’ I thought. ‘He’s thinking Man United, at home, massive game. He needs me for this one.’
I lay in the dark for the next hour, thinking about everything.
Brendan was in his office when I arrived at training. He started smiling as soon as I walked in and I stretched out my hand to say good morning. Brendan was still smiling as he leant back in his chair and said, ‘How are you feeling?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine, good,’ I said. ‘No problems.’
There was a little pause, then Brendan said: ‘Look, I’m desperate to get you back into the XI. But the team has done so well I’m going to go with the same lads that started the other night.’
A sudden lump formed in my throat. I looked at Brendan and, in that mad moment, I had a split- second decision to make. Do I have a go at him?
I went the other way. I went the right way. I decided to stay professional. ‘No problem, fine,’ I said.
‘OK?’ Brendan said.
‘OK,’ I nodded. ‘I respect your decision.’
We left it at that. I walked out and got ready for training. My mind was swimming. I couldn’t believe it. It felt to me, then, like a classic case of muscle-flexing.
My relationship with Brendan was too good for him to need to make a point to me. He was someone I respected and liked: his training sessions were among the best I had ever experienced while his man-management was excellent, generous and imaginative.
But I wondered if this was his way of showing the press that he was strong enough to make a difficult decision. This seemed a chance for Brendan to show his authority and send out a clear message that this was his team.
I can respect Brendan’s decision now, even if I obviously still believe it was the wrong one, because he wanted to show loyalty to everyone who had done well for him.
But it hurt me, especially because of our previous conversations and the fact that his Wednesday night text, which had been full of praise, had misled me. I’m sure he didn’t mean to give me the wrong impression but his text confirmed in my mind that I would be selected.
I had been taught to loathe Manchester United. It was drilled into our brains, hardening our hearts and conditioning our souls as Liverpool fans. It was tattooed into the head of every Liverpool fan. We had never liked each other, as clubs or cities, but the animosity had become deeper. Liverpool had been dominant for so long; and then, finally, United took over under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Over the years, especially when I was in the same England team alongside great United players like Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, my feelings became more layered, but they never disappeared.
I respected Ferguson and Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs; I even respected, grudgingly, what they had achieved as a club. But you never rolled over against United. If they got one over you, you fought back. You went in harder, with just a little more crunch, just to let them know it really was personal.
For more than 26 years, I had always felt compelled to show fire towards them. They were the enemy. Their shirt is the only one I won’t allow in my house. I have a big collection of shirts I’ve swapped with other players from different clubs — but not one from United.
I remember in 2000 after a Danny Murphy goal had seen Liverpool beat them 1-0, United fans hammered on our bus outside Old Trafford. They chanted: ‘F*** off, scum, we’ll f****** kill you in your Liverpool slum.’
My agent, Struan Marshall, told me that, under Fergie, United had a decent pop at trying to sign me. Gary Neville would knock at my door during England camps. He’d come in for a chat and let me know how much United would love me to play for them. Gary told me Fergie had sent him.
In 2004, Ferguson had called me ‘the most influential player in England, bar none’ and suggested that ‘anyone would love to have Gerrard in their team’.
So I was a little hurt and surprised when 13 years later, Ferguson used his autobiography to insist he was one of the few who never thought I was ‘a top, top player’. I wouldn’t lose any sleep but I was slightly taken aback after all his praise.
The only point that mattered was that I have real respect for Ferguson, but I wondered how many league titles he thought Scholes or Keane might have won if they had played for Liverpool.
I would have done OK in a United team playing alongside Keane in midfield with David Beckham on the right, Ryan Giggs on the left and Ruud van Nistelrooy up front. I would have managed pretty well in that side.”