Rodgers the man of the moment at Anfield

Posted by Kristian Walsh

In the week building up to Liverpool vs. Manchester United, all attention focused on the supporters in the stands; after the full time whistle, the scrutiny was reserved for the referee. In the midst of balloons, mosaics, red cards and penalties, a football match took place.

Rodgers will have seen a lot of things to please him at Anfield on Sunday: the performances of many of his key men, none more impressive than the captain, Steven Gerrard; the continued development of Raheem Sterling, with Suso now joining him on the world's watchlist; the strong mentality shown when reduced to 10 men coupled with an intelligent tactical display.

There will be solace for Rodgers over the manner of their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, so too from the Kop's response after Robin van Persie's converted penalty. His name reverberated around Anfield and his pride was evident, even with the contortion of disgust and frustration on his face at what had unfolded.

All of which felt like an epochal moment for both Rodgers and the Liverpool support. At last, his name was sung en masse; at last, acceptance of his vision and defiance in the face of it not quite working. Even after Jonjo Shelvey's red card, Liverpool kept the ball for long periods, just as they did in their four other league games this season; this time, however, the passes were sharper and penetrative, the ball carrying far better than it has been all season.

Steven Gerrard was central to the improvement, finally measuring up to what Rodgers requires of him as both captain and central hub of the system. Gerrard's own epochal moment came 10 minutes in. Receiving the ball in his own half, he shifted his body to launch an ambitious through ball towards Luis Suarez. It is something we've seen frequently this season, though the ball rarely reaches Suarez. Instead, possession is relinquished and Rodgers' relentless football falls down.

But this time, Gerrard stopped short, his body position changing and brain engaging. Instead of forcing the ball forward, he caressed it with his studs and played a simple pass back to Martin Skrtel. No one in the ground applauded bar one solitary man in a suit stalking the touchline. Brendan Rodgers had finally cracked Steven Gerrard; Steven Gerrard had finally cracked Brendan Rodgers.

Though he did release a few long-range passes -- and how the Kop applauded them -- they were the right ball, almost always at the right time. Seeing his finish just a minute into the second half, low and left-footed, leads to temptation of seeing him tried up front, but to deny football the sight of Steven Gerrard in full flow operating the midfield feels borderline criminal.

Gerrard was amply assisted by others. Glen Johnson continues to look natural at left back and routinely provides one of Liverpool’s most potent attacking weapons; Raheem Sterling excites every time he graces the ball; Joe Allen continues to pass, pass, pass. The introduction of Suso, his first touch as neat as his hair, was another welcoming sight, though not at the expense of Fabio Borini’s health.

On the pitch, the day belonged to Rodgers more than anyone. He reacted to everything the day threw at him.

He spoke magnificently pre-match with Sir Alex Ferguson regarding the focus on the disgraceful chanting of death from supporters; he acted with dignity as a club and city he's only been a part of for three months grieved and remembered those who have been dead for 23 years.

His in-game management was superb also. The reaction to Shelvey's red card was calmer than the England U-21 midfielder's demeanour towards Ferguson, suffice to say, demanding his side still attacked and retained possession relentlessly; his choice of replacement for the injured Fabio Borini -- Suso -- was also inspired.

That Rodgers managed to dominate Manchester United just five league games into his Anfield tenure speaks volumes of the potential he has as manager. It was a conundrum both Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez couldn't crack for years during their time with the Reds.

But despite the long list of positives that adorn the chalkboard, one fact remains engraved over it all, conquering everything else: five games played, two points gained. Liverpool's worst start to a season in over a century continues. There is no panic button to press just yet, but Rodgers knows his side must start winning. Winning can be a habit hard to shake; so is losing. With Norwich at Carrow Road, and then Stoke and Reading at Anfield, Rodgers will expect nine points.

The post-game coverage has been dominated by a minority of supporters' voices being used to harmful effect, but it's something that must cease. A few idiots singing about death, or wishing death on referee Mark Halsey, is irrelevant to yesterday’s true message: that the fight for justice for those who died at Hillsborough will continue.

It isn't even newsworthy in terms of yesterday’s game of football. The only voices that should be listened to and noted are those who sang Brendan Rodgers name. More improvement -- and victories -- in their next three games will ensure that it won't be the last time his name is melodised by the Kop, either.

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