DANIEL STURRIDGE may have made an encouraging opening to his Liverpool career, but there’s no way I would start him this weekend.
It’s too early. There’s always upheaval when you play a new player in a new formation alongside new team-mates, and Old Trafford is too risky a venue to do that.
You want your normal team playing in their normal roles, where everybody knows what they are doing.
Teams can spend a lot of time treading water at Manchester United and be left hanging on, and Brendan Rodgers will need his players to stand together.
The Aston Villa debacle apart, Liverpool have been playing well recently, and why wouldn’t Rodgers want Luis Suarez running amok among a United defence that keeps conceding plenty of goals?
Asking Suarez to play in a more defined role would lessen his impact, although in time it’s clear the Uruguayan will be asked to strike up a partnership with Sturridge.
Debuts are always difficult as you feel you have something to prove to everybody, including yourself.
And while you have to take into account the standard of opposition, Sturridge did absolutely fine. He got his goal, which will give him confidence, and now he has to get used to the system and the way Liverpool play.
Steven Gerrard spoke this week of his form returning after a mixed season, and I am inclined to agree with him.
He’s still the only player in the Liverpool team who has a range of passing and his ability to create chances is a million miles clear of anyone else in that squad, easily.
He has had a few bad days but he is such a top footballer that Rodgers should be willing to help him with that problem.
Let’s put it this way, if Gerrard was made available for transfer this month Liverpool would have United and Manchester City on the phone inside five seconds. People would be killing each other to have him.
Gerrard is still an outstanding player and has such an eye that he is one or two moves ahead of everyone else in the Liverpool team, apart from Suarez.
Jamie Carragher is a little older than the skipper and the problem he has found from playing in a back four in the Premier League that strikers are now quicker than him. That isn’t his fault, that’s just Father Time.
But he was excellent against Mansfield and, despite suggestions he might call it quits this summer, I’d give him another year. He’s such a great influence on people around him and has such a tremendous will to win that it rubs off on other people.
By the way, I’ve quickly grown sick of John Radford, the Mansfield chairman. What’s he like? Get over it. It was a handball by Suarez, but it wasn’t deliberate.
As for those who think the striker should have owned up, if it had happened anywhere else on the pitch I don’t think there’d be a clamour for the player to pick the ball up and say ‘whoops, sorry I handled it’.
Mansfield had a great day and did well, but Radford is going overboard with this Suarez thing.
Put a sock in it.