Gerrard's swansong season going all wrong
The talisman is no more. With one act of sheer mindlessness, Steven Gerrard's days as Liverpool's talisman and saviour officially ended on Sunday.
It has been a long time coming.
Indeed, until recently, many at Anfield refused to contemplate the day when his influence would finally wane.
Poetically, it was Manchester United, Liverpool's fiercest foes who were witnesses to the outgoing Reds captain's downfall.
This should have been the first of Gerrard's fitting final hurrahs.
After coming on at the start of the second half, a crunching challenge on Juan Mata was a perfect tonic for the Kop after witnessing their side, by Brendan Rodgers' own admission, fail to make a tackle during a lethargic first-half performance.
The intensity of this occasion has rarely consumed him but, laced with chants by United fans aligning his slip against Chelsea last season with Liverpool missing out on the English Premier League title, he lost his head.
Forty-three seconds was the margin between his moments of genius and insanity.
Those taunts by a 3,000-strong United travelling support had gained a new verse by the time referee Martin Atkinson called time on the visitors' 2-1 win at Anfield that was will doubtless echo into eternity - Gerrard messed it up, again. They were not wrong.
Players of his experience and quality often shy away from reactionary stamping, like his on Ander Herrera.
A straight red card was a reminder of his continuing descent into mortality.
Fast approaching 35, the thought of leaving Liverpool has begun to creep up on him.
Evolution confronts him at every turn, on and off the pitch.
The redevelopment of Anfield gathers apace to the point that the famous old stadium will boast a towering new-look Main Stand shell by the time he departs for the LA Galaxy in the Major Soccer League this summer.
Similarly, Rodgers continues to fashion his team on a long-term vision rather than one clouded by misty-eyed sentiment.
Though he has featured in 35 of their 48 games in all competitions this season - starting 30 of them - Gerrard is no longer Liverpool's top billing.
In the 19 games since his intimation to leave was announced, he has appeared in just nine matches.
A month-long spell on the sidelines prevented him from extending that tally by a further seven.
Whether he would have featured during that period, which included wins over Champions League rivals Manchester City and Southampton, remains to be seen.
It has become a recurring theme in the narrative of Gerrard's swansong.
He was marginalised earlier in the campaign for what proved to be his last chance to impress on the continental stage.
An underwhelming 20-minute cameo during a limp defeat by Real Madrid, compounded by a whimpered group- stage exit, was not the way he wanted nor deserved to bow out.
Little wonder, then, that he attempted to recreate former glories against United last weekend.
But Gerrard is no longer the boundless 20-something who ran across Anfield making chest-beating declarations of "I'm the man!", or swaggered down the touchline of Everton's Goodison Park, tongue bared and his ear cupped in antagonism to a hostile home crowd.
The mind may be willing but it cannot override the toll that dragging Liverpool out of countless mires over the past decade has taken on him.
Attempts to do have resulted in his farewell tour has now been cut short by three dates, one of which is an FA Cup quarter-final replay with Blackburn Rovers.
Being denied his birthday dream of a Wembley showdown in May and missing out on Champions League qualification threaten to be the cost for the naivety of his brief moment of relived youth.
- The writer is a Liverpool-based freelancer who has been covering the English Premier League since 2009.
He wanted to stamp his authority on the match. i know that Gerrard’s heart is in Liverpool, and always will be, but his head is in Los Angeles.
— Former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, on Steven Gerrard, who is heading to LA Galaxy at the end of the season
Steven Gerrard’s sending-off against Man United on Sunday was the eighth red card of his career, with seven coming for Liverpool and one for England.