Steven Gerrard. The name is synonymous with a certain section of Reds, which have dominated English football for a long time. But on Sunday, March 22, his image received an incorrigible hit. After all, not everyone is very forgiving.
Having patiently endured a sporadic outing under the leadership of Brendan Rodgers, Gerrard had already announced his departure from Anfield in January. But nobody expected the 34-year-old midfielder to play out a 43-second cameo against their eternal rivals Manchester United, in front of a packed Kop.
The rivalry between the two most successful clubs in England – each ruling two different eras, and separated by 32 miles on the M62 – is unrivalled. Despite the arrival of super-rich clubs as title contenders and also birth of other new high-stake fixtures, the one between Liverpool and Manchester United is still the mother of all encounters.
Legends have encrusted their names with memorable performances in this fixture. And all that Gerrard needed was a decent outing to leave a final mark on English football prior to his summer farewell.
As the script transpired, he left the field with a red card against his name from one of the most respected referees around, Martin Atkinson. Having recovered from an injury scare, Gerrard was called into the action after a listless 45-minute performance from a young Liverpool side that was on a 13-match unbeaten run.
He replaced Adam Lallana and soon the skipper upped the Reds' tempo, winning a tight ball and sending an inch-perfect long cross-field ball. Moments later, he produced a crunching challenge on Juan Mata, who had scored the opener in the 14th minute, then found himself stamping on Ander Herrera after clearly winning the ball from the United midfielder.
Atkinson, from a vantage point showed no hesitation producing the red card. It was Gerrard's sixth red card in Premier League. With the sending-off, he will miss three games, thus hampering his bid to impress the Liverpool faithful in his final season. Often lauded as the greatest ever Liverpool player, Gerrard has been the epitome of discipline and loyalty. After making his club debut in 1998, the former England captain led the club to the Champions League title in 2005 and also won another nine trophies in his career.
Gerrard has previously provided many classic moments against the Red Devils, but in his final outing, he conspired with himself to earn an unceremonious red card giving critics enough opportunities to question his legendary image.
In his previous 34 games against United, Gerrard has scored nine goals, first of which came in a 2-0 win at home more than a decade ago on March 31, 2001 and his final goal was a penalty conversion in a 3-0 romp at Old Trafford on March 16, 2014.
His guidance and leadership was once again needed after Liverpool found themselves behind inside the first quarter at home. Certainly aware of Gerrard's ability, Rodgers invoked the midfielder during the break. But instead, the midfielder connived to deceive that hope with an unnecessary stamp at an opponent.
For the record, he has been sent off once prior to this, in a FA Cup fourth round loss at Old Trafford in 2011. He did apologise for his dramatic red card, but it will probably overshadow all those memorable moments.