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Barry and Gerrard: Toe to toe, not side by side

Pair were almost team-mates but City player's career now looks healthier, writes Tim Rich

The choice was Manchester or Liverpool. He opted for Manchester.

In a parallel life, Lou Macari would have won three European Cups and five league titles, instead of a single FA Cup winners' medal with Manchester United. In a parallel life, Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard would be alongside each other for Liverpool for tonight's Carling Cup semi-final, as they almost certainly will be for England in the summer.

Barry could have been in the heart of the Liverpool's midfield that collapsed at Bolton on Saturday. "People say to me that I have made the right decision in joining City," he said. "Liverpool is a fantastic club with a great following, but I won the FA Cup last year and I've played in the Champions League. Liverpool were still interested when I decided to join City. I thought about it really hard but the things the clubs were talking about made my mind up. I felt City were on the up, where Liverpool were finding it a bit tougher."

In the summer of 2009, when Barry's £12m transfer from Aston Villa was negotiated, Liverpool had just finished second, 36 points ahead of Manchester City in 10th.

"It wasn't an easy decision," Barry said. "I was signing on promises being made, really, and in football promises are made all the time. But sitting here now, I think it was the right call. I took a bit of stick for a few weeks, as you know, but I took the long-term view.

"I don't get as much stick now. I remember watching a friendly when the transfer saga was going on and the Liverpool fans were singing: 'You can stick Gareth Barry up your a***.' That might have got into my head a little bit but it is part of football."

So is the kind of language Gerrard listened to last Saturday night. It was delivered by Kenny Dalglish, accusing his players of betraying Liverpool's history. Now, however, Gerrard added some perspective.

"You have to win every game, the people new to the club will understand after a performance like that," he said. "The fans won't accept it. It is not allowed, otherwise you will get shouted at by your manager."

In a 1-0 first-leg win secured by his first-half penalty, Gerrard did some shouting of his own, at Roberto Mancini, the City manager. Gerrard was enraged that Mancini had waved an imaginary card, assumed to be red, after a Glen Johnson tackle.

"It got blown out of all proportion, it was more a heated conversation," said Gerrard. "It wasn't a head-to-head duel or anything like that. I just thought I'd tell him he was wrong."

As Barry's career has turned, Gerrard's has stalled. He is the greatest Liverpool footballer since Dalglish but it is nearly six years since his last silverware and he has yet to play for the club at Wembley.

"To lift the cup at Wembley would mean an awful lot," he said. "To get to Wembley is the target; to win there is the dream. I totally understand there is a balance for the club financially. I understand that the top four is massive and it is probably the main aim. But I don't want to be saying I finished in the top four a few times. I want to say I won the Carling Cup three times. Or four. Or five."