If Sunday’s defeat to Manchester United taught us anything, it is that even the greatest players are liable to moments of absolute madness.
Steven Gerrard’s red card 38 seconds after being introduced as a half time substitute will surely go down as one of the lowest moments in his 16-year Anfield career, and ended his battle with the Reds bitterest rivals in the worst possible way.
No player has scored more goals in Liverpool Manchester United games than the nine Gerrard has over the course of his career, with the Reds captain playing his part in some of the club’s most memorable Premier League victories.
Yet his moment of madness on Sunday may unfortunately be remembered more so, due to the inexplicable timing and the importance of the fixture.
Reds fans were given a horrible sense of deja-vu when Martin Atkinson branded that red card for a stamp on Ander Herrera.
It wasn’t long ago we had the same referee overseeing a crucial Sunday lunchtime fixture against a major rival, which Liverpool went on to lose with Gerrard cast as the villain.
His red card will bring a three game ban, and will ensure the 34-year-old has just five Premier League games remaining in a Liverpool shirt.
Sunday’s defeat sees the Reds five points outside of their desired spot, and with a trip to the Emirates next up – a ground in which they have only won once in Premier League history – the gap could be as wide as eight points by the end of the next Premier League weekend.
It would be a cruel way for Gerrard to end a career that has been so exceptional, with the last 12 months or so proving particularly heartbreaking.
Prior to that fateful slip against Chelsea, Gerrard was on the way to lifting the one major trophy that had eluded him, having guided the Reds to within seven points of their first Premier League title. He was a candidate for PFA Player of the year, having excelled in a deep lying playmaker role under Brendan Rodgers.
But that moment had a profound effect – as to be expected.
Of course Manchester City went on to claim the title, and Gerrard was left struggling to get over the heartbreak of coming so desperatley close to achieving his dream with his hometown club.
His England career ended painfully little over two months later, with his error against Uruguay the moment that sealed their exit from the World Cup in Brazil, and international retirement followed.
His form this season has been patchy to say the least, with perhaps his best performances coming in January – directly after he had announced he would be leaving the club for LA Galaxy having lost his guaranteed starting place under Rodgers.
From the moment the announcement was made, there has been an outpouring of grief from Liverpool fans, and a major desire to see Stevie end his Anfield career on a high.
Injury kept him out of action for six weeks, and Jamie Carragher believes his red card on Sunday was a result of frustration having not been selected as a starter for the biggest match of the season – and perhaps the fear his Liverpool career will fizzle out with a whimper.
“There’s never been a case where he’s been out of the team – as soon as he’s fit he comes straight back in the team,” said Carragher on Sky Sports. “This is the first time, I think, last week at Swansea and today, that it hasn’t happened. There’s a big frustration there.
“Watching the first half from the bench, he will have been disappointed. Liverpool weren’t playing well and were losing 1-0. I think he would have been watching players in his position performing not great and thinking, ‘Why am I not playing? Why am I not on that pitch?’.
“We said at half time that was the right call, bringing him on. Steven Gerrard is an emotional player, he is. We’ve seen that in his career.
“It’s taken some of the teams I’ve played in into some unbelievable moments. Sometimes he hasn’t always played with his brain when he’s done well, it’s been his heart.
“Think of the cup final against West Ham, Istanbul. That wasn’t Steven Gerrard playing with a cold, calculated head that was playing from the heart.
“There is no doubt being a local player, the emotion of these games and the frustration coming into this game has contributed to the moment of madness.
“He put a great tackle in four or five seconds before. The crowd roared, I roared! That’s what I wanted to see. I never saw enough of that in the first half. The roar of the crowd gave him a massive lift. He sees Herrera coming in and then… that’s just not acceptable.
“It’s a straight red, there’s no arguments with that. I just think the frustration of not playing, being on the bench, the tackle he’s made. You can’t do that on a football pitch and he’s rightly been given his marching orders.”
There could yet be a saving grace for Stevie however, with Liverpool needing victories over Championship Blackburn Rovers and relegation threatened Aston Villa to reach the final of the FA Cup – on the day of Gerrard’s 35th birthday.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Gerrard has had plenty of fairytale moments during his Anfield career, but the way things have unfolded for him over the past 12 months have been the stuff of which nightmares are made.
A player and a man of his class deserves so much better.
We can only hope there is one more moment of magic to come that will ensure Stevie leaves on the high he so greatly deserves.
Surely it can’t end like this… can it?