I THINK there’s three players who will let us down this year — the cause, the fight, everything. And I have written them down already.”
The summer documentary Being: Liverpool didn’t offer many memorable moments, but the Liverpool manager’s infamous three envelopes was certainly one eyebrow raiser.
Of course there weren’t any names inside.
Brendan Rodgers was merely repeating a psychological trick famously used by the man in the opposite dug-out, after Manchester United had finally ended their 26-year title drought.
But there will be some members of his Anfield squad relieved that the envelopes were probably empty.
If Rodgers had repeated the experiment at Old Trafford yesterday there would have been several names to choose from.
Liverpool’s trip to their fiercest rivals was a curious affair.
For 45 minutes Liverpool were woeful. They were timid, tentative, far too respectful of a side which rarely needs an invitation to twist the knife.
Then Rodgers tinkered with his tactics and his personnel – but more importantly his players’ mindsets – and the Reds were a team transformed.
Being: Liverpool? What Liverpool needed yesterday was Belief in Liverpool.
They got it eventually, but the damage had already been done.
It was a surprise that the half-time reshuffle saw the previously impressive Lucas withdrawn.
Not because the Brazilian had played well, but more so because his midfield partner, Joe Allen, had been having what Anfield legend Robbie Fowler called “a Walters” in a memorable tweet.
Not that Allen looked like scoring two own goals or missing a penalty. But he personified the side’s tentative first half display.
Joe Allen hadn’t even been signed when Rodgers employed his pre-season psychology.
But Reds fans are still waiting to consistently witness the ability which shone like a beacon at Swansea and persuaded Liverpool to spend £15m on his services.
The little Welshman hit the ground running at Anfield and was named the club’s player of the month for August.
We were told that he would be even more impressive when Lucas returned from injury and allowed him to operate on a more advanced role.
The reverse has happened. Lucas’ return has actually coincided with a nosedive in Allen’s form.
He had Daniel Agger to thank for a timely interception after a misplaced backpass let in Daniel Welbeck.
Another headed clearance volleyed wide by Tom Cleverley suggested his match may be brought to a premature end, but surprisingly it was Lucas who made way at the interval.
Perhaps Rodgers was trying to preserve the young midfielder’s fragile confidence. Six minutes into the second half he won a meaty 50-50 and shuttled a pass out wide for Stewart Downing to run onto. And he improved from that point on.
But he still has a long way to go.
Allen is clearly an integral part of everything Rodgers is trying to implement at Anfield, but his integration will take time.
As his rival in the opposition dug-out so helpfully reminded him, the Reds boss has a massive rebuilding job ahead of him at Anfield.
And in the short term Liverpool will have to take their positives in increments.
Yesterday’s plus point was the combination of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. Any doubts about the ability of the strike pairing to inhabit the same forward line without running into each other’s spaces were dispelled in a hugely encouraging second half.
Sturridge buzzed, darted and bristled with spiky intent – and got off four efforts at goal including the goal which made a contest of a match which had been anything but for 45 minutes.
The newcomer even offered a ‘five times’ gesture to the fans behind the goal, to show he gets the club culturally as well as tactically.
Where Liverpool had been anonymous as an attacking force in the first period, after half-time black shirts flooded the United penalty area.
A four pronged attacking line up saw the ball pinging around an increasingly frantic United rearguard, as Liverpool finally started to believe in themselves.
The sight of Alex Ferguson pointing furiously at his wrist watch is usually a sign of a promising performance, but in the end it wasn’t enough Ultimately, it was the gulf in class which was the difference.
While United’s opening goal underlined the value of a world class forward at the very top of his game, profiting from some slick, confident approach-play, Liverpool were heavily reliant on their Gerrard-Suarez axis, which only really started to click when Sturridge entered the fray.
At least the visitors could point to their class off the pitch.
Some, I repeat, some United supporters’ chants of “The Sun was right, you’re Murderers.” were met by a stony silence from the visiting fans.
If United had the class on the pitch, there was precious little off it.