Monday, 2 September 2013

Liverpool v Manchester United: Steven Gerrard claims he has no regrets about ... -

"How can I leave after a night like this?" an exuberant Gerrard hollered into the television cameras on that astonishing night in Istanbul when the Champions League was won in 2005. He has not thought about leaving since even if it was an agonising decision.

That triumph means even more to Gerrard because he won it with Liverpool, the club he has served all his career. "This is where I'm going to live the rest of my life," Gerrard says.

"These are the people that are important to me. When it came down to my crunch decision, it was basically: 'Do I want to win more trophies at Chelsea or another club?

"Or do I want to win less but win medals that mean more to me?' I could have moved. I could have earned more money. I could have had a better chance of winning the league, the Champions League. But I am absolutely happy with my decision. I've no regrets."

Gerrard does not want Suárez to have any regrets either and he says he knows his team-mate's motivation is about glory "not money".

The link to Liverpool, for a man born in Salto, Uruguay, rather than Whiston, Merseyside, is not as strong. But, as Gerrard points out: "Surely Luis Suárez wants to walk away from this club with his head held high and clapped out, rather than fall out with fans?"

Wayne Rooney, a close friend of Gerrard's, had a similarly tense stand-off with Manchester United this summer. Both Liverpool and United — who meet today at Anfield — took a hard-line stance, especially to the notion of selling to a Premier League rival. Just as Liverpool said 'no' to Arsenal, so United did not budge over Chelsea's persistent approaches.

"I think it was important for the game, for English football, that a lot of clubs have stood firm," Gerrard says. "People always talk about player power and stuff like that and players have got to realise there's a loyalty people have to pay back to clubs at certain times. Luis has got to openly admit this club have stood behind him on a couple of massive occasions and they've rewarded him with new contracts as well. I think he's got to stop and realise that the club have been fair to him.

"The support the fans have given him has been phenomenal. They haven't once jeered him or tried to push him out or fell out with him. They absolutely idolise him so surely he wants to go out with his head held high and go to a Real Madrid, or a Barcelona, or Bayern Munich? He could walk into any side in the world."

The speculation, the distraction, the attention can take its toll, however, as Gerrard knows from his own experience. It can affect a player's focus with friends, family and agents all wanting a piece of him. Suárez remains suspended for biting Branislav Ivanovic in April, taking him away from that limelight – something of an unexpected blessing – but Gerrard has been impressed by Rooney's response, and his performance against Chelsea last Monday.

"He was the best player on the pitch," he says. "I know Wayne, the character. I've been in that situation myself when there's speculation swirling around you. Of course – it does affect you. It's in every paper, on every TV channel you put on. But I think Wayne's experienced enough to cope with that type of attention.

"He's always had attention on him since he was 16 and if he's playing on Sunday there's no doubt in my mind he can play well, because he's a top player. But I think Manchester United have had a touch if he stays, because I think he'll be wanting to break records very soon and I think he'll have a fantastic season for them, which is not very good news for everyone else in the Premier League."

Still, Liverpool, whose vibrant young team is evolving quickly under manager Brendan Rodgers, have made their best start in five years. They have secured two straight victories, to follow on from the fine run of form at the end of last season when they were again without Suárez as he started his ban.

"I think Luis was so good when he was playing that it was natural the media and fans said we're a one-man team, because Luis was playing unbelievably. At times we were a one-man team," Gerrard says. "But results have been good since he's been out of the team. That's not because he's been out, it's because everybody has shared the responsibility.

"We'll get judged in games like Sunday and there's no doubt about it, I'd love to have Luis Suárez available, he's that good a player and he certainly strengthens this XI and this squad. So hopefully we get the transfer window out of the way and he's still here. That's my hope anyway."

Victory today and it would help close that gap to United and fuel belief that Liverpool can finish in the top four, once again.

"That would be a dream for me, to lead this team out again [in the Champions League]," Gerrard says.

It would also help convince Suárez to stay, beyond that one more year.

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