News — October 26, 2013 11:45

Carragher : I Was Flabbergasted On Stevie G Not Being A ‘Top Player’

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Alot has been said and written about a certain autobiography released by manager who has just retired. Like many, we were also left slight perplexed by these comments and confused. In his weekly Daily Mail column Jamie Carragher tackles those issues that were directed at players and managers of Liverpool Football Club.

JC

Via Daily Mail

During the week when football was coming to terms with Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his retirement, I received an unexpected letter.

My playing career was reaching its end too, and as I began reading the letter, the identity of the sender soon became apparent. He complimented me on my competitive spirit and stated his admiration for the way I had come from a working-class background to achieve things in life.

The letter was signed Sir Alex Ferguson.

It was genuinely humbling. He had so much going on in his life yet still found time to make that gesture. Of course, I wrote back to him. I thanked him for his words, congratulated him on his remarkable achievements and wished him all the best for his future.

I also told him how I’d enjoyed his first book and hoped he would pen another. If I’d known what comments he had in store for Liverpool, maybe I would have thought twice!

I’ve read with interest his observations on my Liverpool — the era from Roy Evans to Brendan Rodgers — and feel obliged to put across my own opinions. Some of the things Ferguson has said about Liverpool are right. Others are totally wrong.

Carra Fowler Owen Gerrard

Take the reference to Steven Gerrard not being ‘a top, top player’. I was flabbergasted. He won a Champions League final almost single-handedly in 2005. I didn’t see anyone do that for Ferguson on the two occasions Manchester United won it, 1999 and 2008.

Ferguson’s opinion is authoritative but I’d love to know who he does class as a ‘top, top player’; he says Stevie never got a kick against Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, but I don’t remember that to be the case. What I do remember is Stevie scoring big goals against United —like the League Cup final in 2003 — and setting up winning goals for Danny Murphy at Old Trafford. I remember Stevie’s energy, desire and talent rattling United when we played them.

Liverpool v West Ham United

Look at it the other way. Put Keane or Scholes in a Liverpool shirt and let them play against Stevie with the other alongside him. I would have been surprised if they could have done more on their own than Stevie. Keane and Scholes had the advantage of being surrounded by more great players.

SG-1

What makes it all the more difficult to fathom is when you think of the lavish praise he gave Stevie in 2004. At a time when Scholes, Patrick Vieira and Frank Lampard were shining, Ferguson described him as the most influential midfielder in the Premier League. This was even before his iconic moments in Istanbul and Cardiff.

Another issue that confused me surrounded Michael Owen. Why would he have become a better player by joining United when he was 12? Ferguson cites the Under 20 World Cup in Malaysia in 1997, a tournament in which I also played, and how Michael was thrust straight back into Liverpool’s first team when he returned. Ferguson gave United’s representatives at that tournament, John Curtis and Ronnie Wallwork, a month off after they returned and the implication was that Liverpool didn’t manage Michael properly.

What were we supposed to do? Not play him? Michael became European Footballer of the Year in 2001; had he been at United, Ferguson would have almost certainly let him loose. He had done that, don’t forget, with Ryan Giggs, giving him his debut as a 17-year-old.

Like Michael, Giggs suffered from hamstring injuries early in his career — was that through being overplayed? — but he was able to reinvent himself as a central midfielder. Michael couldn’t do that as he was an out-and-out striker. 

Then there is the claim that Liverpool lacked imagination  under Rafa Benitez. That’s just not true. There were times when Liverpool played with more flair — such as when Roy Evans was in charge — but the team I played in during 2008-09 was the club’s best since the title-winning squad of 1990. Yes, Benitez spent a lot of money, but we were trying to catch up. Ferguson was spending from a position of strength, only needing to add one or two players every summer.

Liverpool

We were physically and mentally strong, but we didn’t lack a sense of adventure. We scored four against Arsenal, four at Old Trafford and beat Real Madrid 5-0 over two legs in the Champions League.

Stevie and Fernando Torres were the best front partnership in Europe, and I used to walk out on to the pitch that season with the absolute belief we would win. The only thing that stopped us claiming the title that year was the fact that United had Cristiano Ronaldo on the wing.

Benitez is pragmatic and may not see the game in the same way as Ferguson or Pep Guardiola, but we were not unimaginative. How could we be with players such as Xabi Alonso, Stevie and Torres? That year we were the real deal and that’s why it hurt so much losing the title to them.

Rafa Paisley

My respect for Ferguson is total. I regard him as the best manager there has been for his achievements at Manchester United and, crucially, what he accomplished with Aberdeen. But he never managed to do what Bob Paisley did with Liverpool, namely achieving total European domination. Paisley remains out on his own with three European Cups and perhaps that’s why Liverpool remain at the forefront of Ferguson’s mind.

I’ve read the book and it is excellent, as you would expect from its author and subject. Certain criticisms of Liverpool are justified, too, such as the barb about us wearing T-shirts to support Luis Suarez at Wigan and Benitez’s ill-advised ‘facts’ press conference in 2009.

But there are some of Ferguson’s opinions about Liverpool — my Liverpool — that I simply cannot accept.

P.S. A word on Brendan  Rodgers’s defence of his players. Ferguson may feel aggrieved at the comments, but he may also admire Rodgers. That, after all, is precisely how he would have reacted if the same had been said about one of his own.

 

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