Maturing Jordan Henderson Can Pass Leadership Test In Man Utd Clash


Long range blockbusters, fierce tackles, cup final goals, red cards, kissing cameras.

Steven Gerrard is rarely more like Steven Gerrard than when he’s playing for Liverpool against Manchester United, something that he’ll probably do for the last time at Anfield on Sunday.

We say ‘probably’ because it’s not known whether the Reds’ club captain will feature in a match which has become so crucial both clubs’ top four hopes – with Liverpool’s recent impressive upturn having largely occurred with him on the sidelines – but if he does get a run out he’s almost certainly not going to be the roving, rampaging Red we’ve seen in previous episodes of this rivalry.

Plenty of Gerrard’s career has been spent doing everything he can to match up to the standards of United, a club which has loomed large over his time at Anfield and continues to do so given the regularity with which their supporters share the Liverpool icon’s costly slip against Chelsea last season on social media. It was the highlight of their disappointing campaign.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-LIVERPOOL : News Photo

There have been ups and downs in the current one, but if Sunday is to be one of the latter for United then it will likely come up against Jordan Henderson in the Gerrard role and not Gerrard himself.

As the elder statesman fades into the limelight there have been frequent calls not to heap too much pressure on the young pretender to his crown, but when you’ve scored crucial goals in each of your last three league games – all wins – and started to exude a presence which plays on the minds of your opponents then those comparisons are sure to crop up.

Henderson is no Gerrard, of that we are sure, but what he is one of the symbols of this modern Liverpool team. A symbol who wants to be adequately remunerated with a new contract, so we are told.

All of that can wait, but first comes this test against a United side who will likely turn up at Anfield and pack the midfield, starting with Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera playing in front of a back four.

Liverpool have struggled to break down opponents who have fielded similar formations this season, so much so that Henderson might have to release his inner Gerrard in order to help his side to a positive result.

Liverpool v Manchester City - Premier League : News Photo

READ: Liked By Liverpool, Loved at Lazio - The Rise & Rise of Felipe Anderson

That side to the 24-year-old’s game was seen in his stunning strike which opened the scoring against Manchester City in Liverpool’s last ‘big’ game at Anfield.

It was also seen in the swerving, spearing Kop end drive against Burnley and in his burst forward against Swansea City which yielded a fortunate but winning goal on Monday.

Gerrard had been on the Liberty Stadium pitch for four minutes when that happened, and Brendan Rodgers will certainly be tempted to start him on Sunday for more than just sentimental reasons given the way the subtle switch to the diamond formation (or was it a pentagon?) worked at Swansea, but there’s little doubt that Henderson is his key player at the moment.

Liverpool v Burnley - Premier League : News Photo

READ: Unsung & Unseen, But Joe Allen deserves a new Liverpool contract

He’ll be the one looked to to press United into submission, to impose the home side’s game upon them and to ultimately guide his side to a result which would mean so much.

Whereas previously that might have meant merely shifting the ball onto the more expansive players such as Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling or Adam Lallana, now Henderson is accepting the role of the main man just as Gerrard has for so many years before him. His tally of six goals and 11 assists this season will be the envy of many an attacking midfielder.

The Liverpool captain always seems to do something when he plays against the club’s fiercest rivals, and as he stands on the brink of inheriting that title on a permanent basis, Henderson is in the form to make a telling impact, too.

 

Read more from Mark Jones