How Gerrard and Keane held back Liverpool and Man Utd…

Date published: Thursday 4th November 2021 9:30 - News Desk

The Mailbox offers two of the finest midfielders to play the game as examples of players who held back their clubs. Anything to say? Send your views on any subject to


Gerrard and Keane held back Liverpool and United
To change the subject to literally anything else, and in honour of Kane being Spurs talisman, yet holding the team back, how about a discussion on other players who, despite being their team’s talisman, negatively impacted their team?

To kick us off, I’ll go with Steven Gerrard and Roy Keane.

With Gerrard, despite being Liverpool’s captain, their talisman, their very own Roy of the Rovers, for a period around 2011/12 onwards he held the team back. The Guardian did an article in April 2012 which showed Liverpool scored more and conceded fewer when Gerrard didn’t start matches than when he did. The reason for this was simple: when he played everything had to go through him. I don’t know if it was their tactics or if he demanded it or even if the other players simply retreated into themselves when playing with him, but at that time having Gerrard in their team held Liverpool back.

With Keane, it’s obviously towards the end of his career at United. Pretty much every player who has ever trained with him has said how the standards he set made them better players, but it was his inability to accept that times had changed off the pitch which negatively impacted United. Getting annoyed because a young fella with a lot of disposable income bought a flashy, expensive car, is just a bit over the top. I mean, surely as a senior player (and soon to be manager) you’d rather see the young players spend their money on cars rather than pissing it away in the various bars and nightclubs around Manchester, like the young (and not so young) players did when Keane arrived at Old Trafford?

There must be others out there? Players who are beloved by the fans, who are the first thought when you think of that club, but who, ultimately, are holding them back in some way.

United lack leaders
Setting aside the debate on Ole, and the amusing denial video, the following struck me in a debate over Maguire with a fellow supporter after seeing the comments about Pogba.

What this United side is lacking is not the talent necessarily. What it’s lacking is leadership.

People rightly point out that Ole lacks that meanness (at least as far as we can see). Carrick does too, and was never much of a leader. They often seem to debate changes, as though it’s a committee or democracy rather than a partnership with a clear leader.

In defence, Maguire is often out of position. The claim from my friend is that the reason he’s out of position is because he’s covering others. And because his form and confidence are down, he doesn’t (rightly) feel he can reasonably shout at anyone. But he should be. Rather than get drawn out of position, he should stay in his and ball out whoever isn’t doing their job. Whoever that is. He’s the bloody club captain fgs! Personally I don’t think he’s captain material – a real leader doesn’t need permission to lead, they just lead. Varane isn’t a leader, he’s always had someone else like Ramos to do it. Shaw? Maybe but really you need someone central.

Then you look across the team. Obviously DDG is no captain or leader, he couldn’t lead a group of children in free play. And he’s not going to learn now (maybe Henderson deserves the run?).

No leader in midfield either. Bruno would be the one, but he’s too mild. Pogba? Hahaha, yeah sure. What he needs is to be lead. McT may in time but not yet.

Ok, how about up front? Well yes, we have Ronaldo and Cavani. The former probably doesn’t want the responsibility and the latter may not really be a natural leader.

So who, Rashford? Maybe but without his pr team, could he do it? Maybe, maybe not yet.

See, the critical thing in a captain is someone who drives the team on, has a word with players, kicks them up the arse if needed, shouts them out and supports them if they’re having a bad time. They relay the managers vision when the game is on and back them up (or call them out). Without one on the pitch, and without one really on the sidelines, the ship sets sail with a clear direction but cannot adjust or react in game.

What or who is the answer? No idea, but I’m sure Winty or those in the comments will know.

All I know is, it’s a very different vibe from Sir Alex and Keane/Cantona.

Winty and Ole
J in Belfast my “repugnant ” mail as you put it was not just about the one editorial on Ole but in reply to a stream of articles that in every last one win or lose Sarah denigrates Solskjaer belittles him and pushes her anti Ole agenda, now she may innocently say she has no agenda but anyone with eyes can see that in everything she writes there is always a snide remark regarding Ole. I have a wife and two teenage daughters quite why you felt the need to bring them into the conversation I Don’t know, football is about opinions and I and B​adwolf are of the opinion Winty is out to get Ole, I also think Kane is overrated which is also an opinion, the thing is I don’t write for a successful football website so I can only put my opinions in said websites letters page, I also sent a letter about Atalantas play acting, diving and conning the ref but seems my winty rant would get more replies.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Clutch Ole
I have a theory about Ole:
Ole sometimes snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.
Or sometimes snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

But one thing he’s ALWAYS able to perform consistently:
Snatch permanent continued employment from the jaws of sacking…

Perhaps becoming interim or under probation activates god-mode in Ole and he uncorks a 6 or 10 game unbeaten or winning streak.

He did it filling in for Jose Moany initially – he’d have won the league had the interim results persisted. Last season his job was on the line in the fall, and he went a whole season unbeaten and beat City. This season, Spurs and Atalanta.

10 years later when Pep and Klopp and Tuchel have long moved on, Ole will still be at Man U and folks will still be debating if he’s the right manager for Man Utd.

Ole may win or lose, but he’ll never be sacked.

Good luck to Man U fans surviving Dante’s Purgatorio with Ole.
We know, we lived through 29 years of that lol.


Nuno? Oh no. Top 10 mistakes of the Premier League season


Suarez and Atletico
Henderson spoke before the game about how important Suarez was to the club and I think he very effectively got in his head. Suarez wasn’t his usual, win-at-all-costs self. He apologised when he bumped into Matip at one point and he didn’t even celebrate his goal and I think when that happened Simeone realised his beast had been tamed and withdrew him.

Are they really one of the best teams in Spain? If so then Spain won’t have a single team going past the quarter finals this season. They were poor defensively and average going forward. Brighton genuinely gave us a much tougher game on the weekend. All they had was their play acting and even that wasn’t winning any Oscars today.

Mané got fouled all first half so I was particularly pleased when he ghosted in to smash one home. The defenders all having no clue where he came from made it all the more fun. Jota was outstanding and Salah was amazing on the ball but oddly not with the end product tonight.

Because of other results this means we are already qualified as group winners. I really hope Klopp plays the reserves and kids in the remaining two games but I know his obsession with rhythm means we won’t see the kind of wholesale changes I’d prefer. I just hope he doesn’t risk Fabinho too much as the difference with him until he team is so stark.

I think Van Dijk should be forced to shoot from 40 yards every week because eventually one will go in and it’ll be fabulous.
Minty, LFC


Stitch-up Simeone
That was an odd game. Even if 2 goals down with 10 men, following a red harsher than the lovechild of Keane and Souness, why give up with so much time left?

With Liverpool guaranteed top spot, should they play a heavily weakened team in the last two games?

Given that rotation is always necessary (particularly with midfield injuries) and the side-benefit is reducing Atletico’s chances of qualifying, it makes sense.

Arguably the smart move but definitely dickish. It’ll be interesting to see what Klopp decides.
Aidan, Lfc (I want to see Minamino in goal, but Klopp is a much better person and probably couldn’t even pronounce schadenfreude)


Dead easy
Early doors Group B was pegged as the group of death, with huge names, but some discussion was there around the quality of these big names and whether they were still “all that.”
These 4 teams have played 42 league games now, slightly more than a conventional season season between them, and lost just once. An Atletico Madrid 0-1 loss to Alavas whilst enjoying 72% possession and 15 shots.
In the champions league group however, there’s 6 losses, 4 of them being at the hands of Liverpool, who have made short work of what is a truly mean group.
There may have been some stunted enthusiasm from the weekend at falling a full 3 points behind Chelsea, but it’s clear Liverpool are onto a stormer of a season that should be ending in silverware somewhere, and if it’s not, it will be the case of utter brilliance of other sides, as we have seen before to the hands of Klopp’s Liverpool.
KC (13 goals scored against 11 for the rest of the group)


Amid all the furore about Felipe’s red card, I think one crucial point has been missed: the ref is a bit dishy.
Robert, Birmingham.

Atletico Madrid players complain against Liverpool

Ref justice
Wow. Half time, and Atletico getting what they deserve for their football under Simeone.
I have never been more giddy than when the ref pulled out the red for Felipe.
All the sh*thousery, the little kicks at Mane to get him sent off, the crying, the rolling on the ground. Atletico have met their match and UEFA should consider letting him ref all Atletico matches in the future. His name is Danny Makkelie.
Nik (now don’t f*ck this up), Munich


Drama guaranteed
Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid.

The best fixture in world football? Always unmissable.
Gerard, Belfast


Neutral’s view?
I love the champions league. I am a Liverpool fan. The two are probably connected. The 2004/5 season was my first year at uni. The Olympiacos games one of my favourite nights there. That season was the first of 16 seasons that the competition had Ronaldo or Messi in at least the quarters social media told me. Liverpool were in 25 percent of the finals in those 16 years.

Theres been the most incredible final, the ghost goal, and Luis Garcia. Bales over head kick. The Barca come back proving that the Anfield magic is real. Jordan Hendersons twinkle toes. Robbo the king of shithouses. Just incredible moments as Klopp would say.

This season already has been brilliant. The of group death navigated with 2 games to spare. Loads of goals, reds, jeopardy.

Neutral fans, am I seeing this with kop red tinted glasses on or do you watch Liverpool in the Champions League knowing that they are good value?
Alex, South London


Postcard from the sheets
Been in bed with a migraine today so will keep it simple…

1. Where is this Atletico vs Liverpool referee from and how can I get him to come and parent my children?

2. Conte won’t be the answer as long as Levy is running the club, no-one will.

3. This is Ronaldo’s United rather than Ole’s, much like the 2012/13 version of Spurs were Bale’s Spurs rather then AVB’s.

Back to bed now innit.
Jerome, Bristol Spur


Newcastle’s search
The greatest irony about Newcastle is they appear to be trying to recruit a manager for where they want to be rather than where they are.

They need a manager capable of recovering from a terrible start, moving the club out of the relegation zone and steadying the ship until the club can spend their billions in the summer.

The problem is they’ve sacked the very man who achieved all of these things last season.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

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