Reasons Alex Ferguson Is Wrong: Steven Gerrard Is a Top, Top Player
"I'm one of the few who felt Gerrard was not a top, top player," claimed Alex Ferguson in his autobiography.
The claim that Steven Gerrard, a man described by Zinedine Zidane and Pele as world-class, isn't a "top, top player" is one that certainly made some headlines recently.
"I won't lose any sleep over it," replied Gerrard via ESPN when asked about the quotes.
Gerrard would be right not to because there are certainly plenty of good reasons to show why Ferguson's claim is completely and utterly wrong.
Big Game Player
How many players have scored in a League Cup Final, FA Cup Final, UEFA Cup Final and Champions League Final? Presumably, not many.
Steven Gerrard has.
Whether it be as a sprightly 21-year-old waltzing through the Alaves defence to score in the 2001 UEFA Cup Final in Dortmund; volleying past Fabian Barthez against Man United in the 2003 League Cup Final in Cardiff; thundering the crucial winner against Olympiakos at Anfield to set his side on the road to Istanbul; heading home the first goal of the incredible comeback against AC Milan in the Ataturk Olympic Stadium; or volleying an arrow-like shot from 35 yards in the 96th minute of the 2006 FA Cup Final while suffering from a cramp, Steven Gerrard has proved he is the man for big occasion.
- Germany 5-1 (World Cup qualifier, September 2001, Munich)
- Poland 2-0 (World Cup qualifier, October 2013, Wembley)
- Turkey 2-0 (Euro 2004 qualifier, April 2003, Sunderland)
- Greece 2-2 (World Cup qualifier, October 2001, Old Trafford)
- Croatia 4-2 (Euro 2004, June 2004, Lisbon)
"107 caps isn’t bad for someone who isn’t 'a top, top player', is it?" quipped Gerrard when discussing his England caps in an interview with The Daily Mail recently.
Gerrard needs eight more appearances for his country to equal David Beckham's 115 caps—the most for an English outfield player. It's quite likely Gerrard will surpass that tally at next summer's World Cup.
He'll equal Bobby Moore's 108 caps should he appear against Germany in the friendly at Wembley on Tuesday.
Gerrard's contributions to England have been impressive, appearing in two World Cup campaigns, four European Championships—named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament in 2012—and scoring 21 goals.
The first of those goals came at the Olympic Stadium in Munich in England's famous 5-1 thrashing of their old rivals. Gerrard was just 21 at the time but outshone Michael Ballack and Dietmar Hamann in Germany's midfield.
England's "golden generation" may have failed to deliver as a collective, but that cannot be personally said of Gerrard on an international stage.
Quality Shines Through
Alex Ferguson may claim Gerrard is not, or was not, as good as Paul Scholes, but Paul Scholes played in a Manchester United side packed with other "top, top players."
That certainly hasn't been the case during the whole of Gerrard's 15-year career at Liverpool.
While Ferguson was splashing £28 million on Juan Sebastian-Veron and playing Scholes alongside Roy Keane, Gerrard was playing in midfield alongside the likes of Salif Diao, Igor Biscan and Antonio Nunez.
For years, Gerrard carried the Liverpool side.
When any Liverpool supporter debates whether Gerrard is the club's greatest ever player, one factor Gerrard will forever have in his favour is that the calibre of players around him was not akin to the calibre of players Kenny Dalglish had around him.
Dalglish had Ian Rush alongside him and played in some of the greatest Liverpool sides ever assembled; Gerrard oftentimes had El Hadji Diouf, Milan Baros, Milan Jovanovic, Djibril Cisse or Andriy Voronin and played in some of the worst Liverpool sides in modern times.
In adversity and triumph, Gerrard has always shone.
Praise from Peers
Sometimes, the best praise is praise from your peers. These quotes from some of the world's best footballers should tell the story:
Zinedine Zidane (in 2009) via The Daily Mail
Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be.
If you don't have a player like Steven Gerrard, who is the engine room, it can affect the whole team.
Steven Gerrard is so powerful and strong. He can attack, he can defend and he can score. I really like him as a player and I think he can be one of the best players, a truly fantastic player.
He is an excellent player, in my opinion, he is a modern player because he is a player who runs, marks, knows how to pass, cross, score goals and he is a leader on the field for Liverpool. So he is a player that I would like to have in my team.
When I was a child, I saw him on TV and played with him on the PlayStation.
Now I play with him. He helps in the dressing room and helps all the players - he is a great captain.
Gerrard is a great player. He is undoubtedly one of the best midfield players in the world.
Gerrard is an excellent player, absolutely world class. If I was a manager, everywhere I went I would buy Steven Gerrard. He is what Brazil needs, because he is always looking forward and has a big heart. When I saw him in Tokyo in a game against Sao Paulo, I said that Gerrard is a great player. To me he is one of the best midfielders in the world.
Longevity and Consistency
After his goal against Crystal Palace recently, Gerrard has now scored against every team currently in the Premier League.
Even at the age of 33, Gerrard's influence for both club and country cannot be understated.
Up until the final few games of last season, he had played in every minute of every Premier League game for Brendan Rodgers' side, a record that was only stopped when he underwent shoulder surgery to ensure he was fit for the start of the following campaign.
He recently celebrated his 100th Premier League goal—of which 31 have been game-winning goals (stat via This Is Anfield).
Steven Gerrard is taken off after playing a part in Liverpool's four goals so far. Even at 33 his quality is unquestionable.
— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) Nov. 9, 2013
"He [Gerrard] has become the most influential player in England, bar none," said Ferguson in 2004, as per this article by Dominic King in The Daily Mail, who exposes Ferguson's claim for what it is—wrong.
More than anything, Ferguson's claim is exceptionally hypocritical, something Roy Keane rightly pointed out and has been a trend of Ferguson's for many years, as expertly highlighted in this piece by B/R's Jamie Ward back in 2009.
Jeremy Wilson, in The Telegraph, explains that Ferguson attempted to sign Gerrard in the summer of 2005.
If Gerrard isn't a "top, top player," then just why was the Man United manager trying to sign him?
Gerrard himself explained in an interview with The Daily Mail recently, "I have had some unbelievable praise from him and he tried to buy me, certainly on one occasion. Maybe even two."
"Could you imagine me going to bed at night having taken Gerrard off Liverpool?" wrote Ferguson in his book.
"Gerrard won a Champions League final almost single-handedly in 2005. I didn’t see anyone do that for Ferguson on the two occasions Manchester United won it, 1999 and 2008," Jamie Carragher rightly pointed out in his Daily Mail column.
Zinedine Zidane, arguably the greatest player of his generation, was similarly bemused by the claim, as quoted by The Mirror:
Alex Ferguson is obviously one of the most successful coaches the game has ever had. But I did find his comments about Steven Gerrard very strange. To say he is not a top player is wrong.
For two or three years, Steven Gerrard was the best midfield player in the world. Even now he is playing at a high level for Liverpool and England.
Selective memory and hypocrisy from Ferguson, then.
The word "legend" is often overly used in modern football, but Steven Gerrard will rightly be remembered as a Liverpool legend.
His contributions have been, arguably, greater than contributions any other single footballer has made to the football club.
And there's still time to write more chapters.
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