McManaman: Liverpool cracking under pressure? Nonsense
Nowhere in world football does perception fluctuate more wildly than at Liverpool.
A fortnight ago, the EPL title remained in their hands; now it seems to be slipping away.
Successive draws have seen the Reds branded as bottlers and, if you believe the Manchester City fans gleefully celebrating their return to the summit, Juergen Klopp is "cracking up".
Mental fortitude provides a neat backdrop to tonight's clash with Bournemouth, with anything other than a comfortable victory likely to lead to further accusations of inadequacy.
But some of those who vied for a league title, both in and away from Anfield, dispute those assertions.
“I think it's nonsense, to be honest,” Steve McManaman told The New Paper. “I get the fact that you have to ask the manager every single game, depending on the result.
"If Liverpool win (by) five at the weekend, you're not going to talk about pressure are you?
“Personally, I think these players who've played in World Cups, Mo Salah who carries his country on his own shoulders (can handle it). You'd probably find more pressure on a Scouser if he was in there because of the history of the club.
“But the front three are from different parts of the world. I don't think there's a huge amount of pressure. I really don't.”
McManaman tasted domestic success on two occasions with Real Madrid but fell short with Liverpool in the 1996/97 season, when Roy Evans' side led Manchester United in the table with 10 games remaining before remarkably stumbling to a fourth-place finish.
Comparisons with a glorious past hampered a team which played some of Anfield's most vibrant football since its title-winning heyday. Little has changed in the ensuing 22 years.
“When you have a history as long and as varied as Liverpool, you're always going to get this,” admits McManaman.
“Liverpool will be scrutinised more than Tottenham; Man United will be scrunitised more than another opposition because of their marvellous history, so I think that is a consequence.
“Until they win something, it will continue and I think everybody knows that and appreciates it.
“The manager knows it, all the players probably know it and they need to get over the line.”
Results aside, there is little to suggest that Klopp's players are wilting under pressure. The Anfield crowd, however, appear to be struggling with the weight of ending the 29-year drought.
“I was at the Leicester game and that's the one thing I would say: that the fans have got so much sway in how Liverpool are going to finish the season,” said Michael Owen.
“Because I felt a nervousness (in the stadium) after about 15, 20 minutes and it does transmit. I just think the fans are going to be so important on the run-in; as noisy as possible, getting behind the team, because that helps you massively as a player.
“If it's like that, then Anfield could carry them to the title. But if there is nervousness and whatever, it doesn't take me to tell you. You only had to see it at Leicester.”
Former Liverpool striker Owen, an EPL winner with United in 2010/11, believes the Merseysiders have greater momentum heading into their run-in than City or fellow title rivals Tottenham.
He added: “If you want to start looking at form tables, look at the last 10 games and Liverpool are streets clear of the likes of City and Tottenham.
“I work in television and we all know we can make a form guide look good and bad. If you want to look at the last two games, okay, there's been points dropped.
“But Leicester are not an easy team to play especially for the big teams, where they just play to their strengths, sit back and break. West Ham are a difficult team as well.
“If we were playing at home and we drew, I'd be disappointed but away (at West Ham), they can beat anyone. They've got flair players now and can turn it on, and they do turn it off as well.
“They're a funny team to play against, but I'm not concerned at all.
“Everyone had written the whole league off a while ago, saying City had won it. Then Liverpool came back to go seven points ahead, and everyone had written everyone off again.
“It's (still) a long way to go.”