Gerrard's moment of madness costs Liverpool
(Daniel Sturridge 69)
MAN UNITED 2
(Juan Mata 14, 59)
Zinedine Zidane still says he has no regrets. But Steven Gerrard will regret this moment for the rest of his life.
Zidane lost his head and the World Cup. Gerrard lost his footing and his dignity.
The memory of the 2-1 defeat will fade, but the skipper's soul may never heal.
A proud man is a broken man this morning. The red-card nightmare will haunt Gerrard for the rest of his days.
A great player, perhaps the greatest to ever pull on a Liverpool jersey, was left a tortured player.
The hero of Istanbul became the villain against Manchester United. Of all the teams, of all the occasions, of all the seasons, Gerrard blew it against the most unforgiving enemies of all.
Neither he nor Liverpool will be allowed to forget his sudden, inexplicable descent into madness. United will remember, forever.
When the skipper came on at half-time, the Kop anticipated resurrection, not a act of such repugnance.
The familiar narrative was surely about to be written. Cometh the hour, cometh the comic-strip hero, Roy of the Rovers was ready.
But the script turned horrific in less than a minute.
Just 43 seconds stained his legacy. Just 43 seconds were needed to go from infallible to infamy.
Great careers deserve to wind down gracefully. Legends deserve a fitting finale, but not this. This was unforgivable, perhaps even irredeemable.
Gerrard came out sniffing blood. His swansong season, his final clash against the old enemy, he came out to fight.
The first tackle on Juan Mata was full-blooded. The stamp on Ander Herrera seconds later was suicidal. The red card was inevitable.
Watching Gerrard take the loneliest walk across his beloved Anfield turf was a sporting tragedy of Shakespearian proportions, not witnessed since a shamed Zidane bowed his head as he passed the World Cup in the 2006 final.
Bad news comes in threes, but this was viciously cruel.
There was the mistake against Chelsea last season. And then the misdirected header for England in the World Cup and now this; Gerrard has suffered three dreadful errors of judgment in one calendar year.
The harrowing narrative took the breath away. It was awful, just awful and entirely unfair on Man United.
The Red Devils conjured one of their finest performances of the season to triumph at Anfield.
Louis van Gaal retained his golden oldies from the Tottenham victory, sticking with Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini and leaving Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria on the bench.
The move paid off handsomely after 14 minutes.
Fellaini gathered possession around the centre circle and released Ander Herrera.
If Fellaini's pass was precise, Herrera's was perfect, slicing through the space on the right between the dozing Alberto Moreno and Juan Mata.
The Spaniard broke neither stride nor composure as he prodded the ball forward and whipped a low strike across Simon Mignolet.
United had brought their A-game from the Tottenham victory. Liverpool brought a hangover. The sign says, "This is Anfield". For much of the game, it didn't look like it.
Only one man in red roused the restless natives. Whenever Gerrard warmed up, the Kop roared. How little they knew.
Adam Lallana flashed a shot wide after a rare forward foray, but the near-miss proved to be his last contribution.
Lallana never returned for the second half. Gerrard took his place. Despair beckoned.
The skipper lasted 43 seconds. His devastated teammates collapsed soon after.
On any other day, Mata's second goal would've ruled the headlines.
This morning, it's a footnote. But his strike in the 59th minute was no less fabulous.
Substitute di Maria dinked a pass towards the Spaniard. The ball was behind him. He readjusted in midair and executed a glorious acrobatic volley that flew past Mignolet.
United hadn't seen this kind of finish since Mark Hughes. Their supporters hadn't seen such swashbuckling, insouciant football since Sir Alex Ferguson was winning domestic doubles for fun.
Mata silenced the Scousers, but not quite for good.
In the 69th minute, Sturridge broke free on the right side of the penalty box and smashed his effort past de Gea at the near post.
Liverpool found a second wind with only 10 men. They rose to the occasion.
Mignolet even spectacularly saved Wayne Rooney's 94th-minute penalty after Daley Blind had been pulled down.
But all of that will recede from the memory quickly.
In the coming days, Liverpool will face the Gerrard hysteria.
And the shattered skipper must face the man in the mirror.
GERRARD SORRY FOR RED CARD
“I tried to jump his tackle, I saw his studs and I reacted wrong. I’ve been in the game long enough to know when you do something like that, especially at the timing of the game, at half-time with 45 to play, a great opportunity to get back in the game, I take full responsibility for it.”
- Steven Gerrard on what happened
“I have let my teammates and manager down today, even more importantly, I let all the supporters down.”
- Gerrard apologises
FRUSTRATION’S THE CAUSE
“Watching the first half from the bench... he’d have been watching players in his position performing not great and thinking, ‘Why am I not playing, why am I not on that pitch?’.”
- Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher attributing Gerrard’s red card to frustration
BY THE NUMBERS
Man United have completed a league double over Liverpool for only the second time in the last seven seasons.