Brendan Rodgers: 'If you are fearful you don't make progress'

Liverpool manager insists he will certainly not be in awe of Sir Alex Ferguson when United visit Anfield tomorrow

It is a challenge that has had to be faced by every manager of Liverpool football club sooner or later – that moment when they have to confront Manchester United, the beast to the east that has spent two decades winning the trophies that were once the preserve of the team that played at Anfield.

Tomorrow is the turn of Brendan Rodgers, who is the seventh man to take the reins at Liverpool – including a second spell by Kenny Dalglish – since Sir Alex Ferguson turned up at United and set about changing the hierarchy of English football. At 39, Rodgers is the youngest man to have done the job since Graeme Souness, who was 37 when he succeeded Dalglish in April 1991.

The respective stories of United and Liverpool are, to a great extent, the key narrative of English football over the past 20 years and there was no need to relive it all yesterday at the club's training ground, safe to say that Rodgers is well aware of the details.

Was he daunted, he was asked yesterday, not least by the possibility that a defeat, combined with results elsewhere could leave Liverpool bottom of the league? Rodgers said the thought had never entered his head. "I'm very optimistic in my life and it is why I have arrived at where I am at a young age," he said. "If you are fearful you don't make the next steps.

"If you are frightened to lose, you don't do enough of what it takes to win a game. I always look to get the team in a positive frame of mind, that's how I have always been. The reality is we are four games into the season. I am more worried about where we will be at the end of May and if we have made progress."

It would be no exaggeration to say that every football fan in the country and a good deal more people beyond will take an interest in what happens at Anfield tomorrow. A club mourning the deaths of 96 of their supporters, now in the light of the extraordinary revelations of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, and the official reaction to it, on the occasion of a visit from the most bitter of all their rivals.

It hardly needs to be said that no football match, whatever the stakes, will ever take precedence over the Hillsborough disaster and its legacy. But tomorrow when the tributes are done and the 96 balloons are released, a football match will take place and a young Liverpool manager will face down the most successful United manager in history on a day when the sense of emotion at Anfield will be stronger than ever.

These moments in the life of a coach are not covered in those how-to-be managerial manuals or on Uefa-approved coaching courses. They have their own unique demands. They rarely stand up to the usual rational analysis. Is Rodgers ready for this?

"Absolutely. First and foremost I want to be a pillar of support. I know what these families have been through over the last 23 years. I am also sure of the hope that they can get from the tribute and everyone there will recognise that. I am happy. This is about life here at Liverpool. It's not just about a coming in at half past nine and doing a coaching session and going home again. This is about life and you know that as soon as you arrive here."

He had arrived back from Switzerland and the 5-3 win over Young Boys Bern in the early hours of Friday morning. It was with some of his own young boys, plus the likes of Jamie Carragher, that a win in the Europa League was achieved. Against United the big guns will come back in, although the performance of Jonjo Shelvey, 20, who scored twice on Thursday has given Rodgers cause for thought.

What of the man whom he faces tomorrow? Ferguson was 44 when he took over at United (left), five years older than Rodgers when he was appointed by Liverpool this summer. When Ferguson took over, United had not won the league for 19 years. Rodgers inherited a club that had gone 22 years since their last title. Even Ferguson acknowledged yesterday that when he started at Old Trafford in November 1986, "there was less pressure". "The world has changed," he said. "The press has changed."

There are similarities in the situations of the respective clubs they inherited. Rodgers, however, was uncomfortable comparing himself to a manager who had won so much before he came to United. "I don't think there are too many comparisons other than when he entered there in 1986 he had a massive job to do," Rodgers said.

"It [United] was a failing school. He had to pick it up from its knees and he was looking to put his own stamp on it. He looked to youth to have no fear and to grow from there. For me, the similarities are that I have come in to an incredible club. I wouldn't have left Swansea for many because I like to get peace and satisfaction with how I work. I would rather work with a group of Under-10s than say to a team of mine 'Smash the ball up the pitch'. I believe British players can play football. But very few clubs give you a chance to do that."

Rodgers' predecessors have dealt with Ferguson in different ways. Dalglish and Rafael Benitez appeared to loathe him. Roy Hodgson suffered from perceptions among Liverpool fans that he was too chummy with his United counterpart. Rodgers admitted that he been the recipient of a supportive letter from Ferguson when he was sacked by Reading in 2009 – something the latter does for every manager who loses his job – although he respectfully pointed out that there was no special relationship between the two men.

As for all the complex elements that will go to making tomorrow such an occasion, Rodgers said he would control what he could. "I have found my peace here. I know the pressures but I have found a home here. The supporters have been brilliant and there is sense of reality in terms of where we are at. Hopefully we will grow from this and move on and over the next couple of years we will take the next step forward."

Five alive: Reds managers' bows

Liverpool manager's records after first five league games:

Results Final position

Bill Shankly 1959-60 LLWWW 3rd (Div 2)

Bob Paisley 1974-75 WDWWW 2nd (Div 1)

Joe Fagan1983-84 DWWDW 1st (Div 1)

Kenny Dalglish 1985-86 WDLWD 1st (Div 1)

Nov 1986: Ferguson takes over at Man United

Graeme Souness 1990-91 WWLLW 2nd (Div 1)

Roy Evans 1993-94 DLLWL 8th (Prem)

Gerard Houllier & Evans 1998-99

WDWWL 7th (Prem)

Houllier 1998-99 LWWLL 7th (Prem)

Rafael Benitez (pic) 2004-05 DWLWL 5th (Prem)

Roy Hodgson 2010-11 LDWDL 6th (Prem)

Dalglish 2010-11 LDWWW 6th (Prem)

News
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor