Rodgers enjoys the moment as players buy into his way of thinking
An expensive car sat stationary at the Shankly Gates, its engine idling as autograph hunters pushed scraps of papers through the windows. Stewards made half-hearted attempts to clear the crowd but, judging by his smile, Brendan Rodgers was rather enjoying the moment.
Around 90 minutes earlier the final whistle had blown on a win that Liverpool’s manager must have felt represented more than the collection of an admittedly precious three points.
Quite apart from coming up against Roberto Martinez – a rival for the Anfield job last summer – it had the air of a watershed moment. A case of weeks of painstaking training ground choreography paying off as players demonstrated they are really beginning to grasp his vision.
Granted, it would almost certainly not have happened without Luis Suarez but it is slightly unfair to dub Anfield’s class of 2012-13 a one-man team.
Rodgers’ conversion of Jose Enrique from out-of-favour full-back to inventive left-sided attacking midfielder resulted in the Spaniard scoring his first goal for the club, creating Suarez’s second and inspiring several of Liverpool’s best moments.
Equally encouragingly, England new boy Raheem Sterling – one of three teenagers in Liverpool’s starting XI – also excelled, conjuring goals for Suarez and Jose Enrique.
“Raheem’s pull-back for Suarez’s first was dead weight,” Rodgers said. It came after the 17-year-old intercepted Jean Beausejour’s slapdash pass and rounded Maynor Figueroa.
Later, Sterling’s parried shot precipitated Jose Enrique tapping home the third.
Despite his disappointment, Martinez – whose 3-4-1-2 formation initially confounded Liverpool – applauded Sterling’s talent. “He’s someone who finds the little spaces really well, then he’s very direct,” said Wigan’s manager. “I love that sort of football.”
Sterling was blameless for the sickening collision of shins with Ben Watson which left the Wigan midfielder with a broken leg and Martinez discussing the types of surgical screws and nails potentially required to repair it. “Raheem’s amazing,” said Rodgers who remains confident his protege will shortly sign a new, lengthy, contract. “He’s so bright and sharp and you’re seeing that little bit of arrogance with the ball.”