Steven Gerrard not underestimating size of Aston Villa’s task in facing Manchester United

The former Liverpool captain makes his managerial bow in the FA Cup after twice winning it as a player at Anfield.

Phil Blanche
Sunday 09 January 2022 10:55
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Steven Gerrard is taking no notice of Manchester United’s indifferent form ahead of Aston Villa’s FA Cup trip to Old Trafford (Nick Potts/PA)
Steven Gerrard is taking no notice of Manchester United’s indifferent form ahead of Aston Villa’s FA Cup trip to Old Trafford (Nick Potts/PA)

Steven Gerrard says Ralf Rangnick needs time to put his stamp on Manchester United and insists Aston Villa are not under-estimating the size of their FA Cup task at Old Trafford.

Interim United boss Rangnick has had a turbulent week after a first defeat of his reign to Wolves was followed by reports of dressing room disharmony, with as many as 17 players said to be unhappy.

But Villa boss Gerrard is taking no notice of the noise swirling around United, as the former Liverpool midfielder makes his FA Cup managerial bow against a familiar adversary.

Interim Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick has had a difficult week at Old Trafford (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I think everyone still respects the fact that Manchester United are a good team at Old Trafford,” Gerrard said ahead of Monday’s third-round tie.

“They are capable of beating anyone there if they have a good night. There certainly will be no disrespect of the opponent we’re going to face.

“When new managers take over they need time to put their identity and philosophy on it.

“If you analyse their results they haven’t been as bad as what people are suggesting.

When new managers take over they need time to put their identity and philosophy on it

Steven Gerrard

“I’ve analysed it properly and I don’t get involved in some of the things that are said about opponents, managers or players.

“Everyone knows Manchester United deserve that respect in terms of what level they are operating at.”

Gerrard graced the FA Cup with distinction during his time as a player, winning the competition in 2001 and 2006.

As Liverpool captain in 2006, he produced one of the great FA Cup final performances against West Ham in Cardiff.

Steven Gerrard lifts the FA Cup as Liverpool captain in 2006 (Martin Rickett/PA)

Gerrard scored twice and his sensational stoppage-time equaliser from distance made it 3-3 before the Reds went on to win a penalty shoot-out.

He said: “In terms of history it means a lot because I’ve had a good level of success and some of the highlights of my career came in this competition.

“It’s a real tradition, a special competition for everyone who’s English and British because we know it very well.

“Even when foreigners come into the country and you’re having conversations with them, the FA Cup always comes up.

“It’s got a name for itself worldwide and I’m looking forward to competing in it from a managerial point of view.

“It’s a big welcome to the FA Cup getting Manchester United away in your first game – and there were certainly kinder draws out there. But we’ll go there and give it our best shot.”

Whereas Rangnick could rotate his squad, Gerrard has promised to field a strong line-up at Old Trafford.

Philippe Coutinho is unlikely to be involved following his loan move from Barcelona, but England pair Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings are available again and former United captain Ashley Young could feature after breaking his toe.

Philippe Coutinho must wait for his Aston Villa debut after joining on loan from Barcelona for the rest of the season (Mike Egerton/PA)

Gerrard said: “A good, positive cup run can breed confidence and belief, especially if you qualify through a round when you face Manchester United at Old Trafford.

“It will be sorted out on the night, be it extra time and penalties if needs be, so we need to be as ambitious and brave as we can.

“It’s not a case like it used to be where you could set up in a certain way, and maybe have the safety net in a certain period of the game to fall back on a replay.

“The dynamics have changed, but if we can give a really good account of ourselves then I’m hoping it’s going to be an interesting night.”

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