Brendan Rodgers: I’m still the best man for Liverpool job

Anfield boss sounds a defiant note before visit to great rivals Manchester United

Brendan Rodgers:  “This year a new group of players have come in and we have been unfortunate with injuries. The club is in a different place . . ” Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers: “This year a new group of players have come in and we have been unfortunate with injuries. The club is in a different place . . ” Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

 

Brendan Rodgers has responded defiantly to mounting criticism of his Liverpool tenure and claimed he is the best man for the task of restoring fortunes at Anfield.

Not for the first time this season the Liverpool manager is under pressure after his team’s elimination from the Champions League on Tuesday and their poor performance in the must-win game against Basel. European failure has accompanied poor domestic form and Liverpool visit Manchester United ninth in the Premier League, six points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham United.

Rodgers’ team selection and tactics against Basel attracted fierce criticism, with several former Liverpool players voicing dismay and questioning the manager’s job prospects. The 41-year-old has spoken to members of Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, since the Champions League exit and claims they remain “a tight group”. For his growing band of critics, however, there was only a confident riposte from Rodgers before the trip to Old Trafford.

Anybody better

“I think the message from me is clear: I don’t think there would be anyone better to do the job here,” he said. “Seven months ago we nearly won the title unexpectedly, I had time to work with players and we took them beyond where the club has been in a long time.

“This has been a difficult start with new players, less coaching time, young players; we are virtually starting again.

“I don’t think there is anybody better equipped to deal with that having been here for the last two and a half years and experienced what this club is about and seeing what we get from the players whenever we are at our best.

“Criticism comes with the territory when you don’t win games. Football is very short-term. The same people who are criticising me now were maybe saying I couldn’t do anything wrong six or seven months ago. That is the way football works. You have to accept that as a manager and fight even harder to bring success. This period has ensured I will do that for sure.”

Transfer outlay

Liverpool spent almost €152 million on new players in the summer – the biggest transfer outlay in the club’s history – to strengthen the squad and compensate for Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona.

 

Despite that Rodgers claimed after their Champions League exit there were unrealistic expectations on Liverpool and cited the all-too-brief impact of the €25 million Lazar Markovic as evidence of young players needing time to adapt.

“His 15-minute cameo the other night was what we have been on at him about since he came in, that aggression and being that dynamic player,” said Rodgers. “But I think that also demonstrates the difficulties of coming to a club of this size at the age of 20 and dealing with the expectation. Slowly they get there.”

The manager’s conviction that he is the best man for the Liverpool job is based on his coaching ability and suitability for the parameters set by FSG at Anfield.

Rodgers, who admits his team need to rediscover how to “play without fear”, said: “The club has employed someone who, without being arrogant, believes he can get the best out of a senior player or a youth player. He will always maximise talents he has and I think last year proved that.

“This year a new group of players have come in and we have been unfortunate with injuries. The club is in a different place from others but that is something I accept as part of my job here at Liverpool.”

But Rodgers sounded a determined note before the trip to Old Trafford.

“I’ve got to find a way, with the squad of players and the players we have out injured, to release our talent and our football again. That’s the one that is driving me on every single day.”

Mario Balotelli, who accepted an English FA charge in relation to making racist and anti-semitic comments on social media, could return to the Liverpool squad having missed six matches with a groin problem. Kolo Toure is also available after injury.

As for reports that Raheem Sterling is unhappy over the terms of a new contract offered by Liverpool, Rodgers said: “There is no unhappiness and I’m sure the contract will be sorted out in time.”

Guardian Service

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