Steven Gerrard snapped back at Sir Alex Ferguson’s brutal verdict on playing career

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Steven Gerrard takes his Aston Villa side to Old Trafford tonight for a FA Cup showdown with Manchester United. His first taste of the FA Cup as a manager will be shown live on BBC One this evening, with coverage starting at 7:30pm, and kick-off at 7:55pm. The winners will host Championship side Middlesbrough in the fourth round.

A Liverpool legend, Gerrard had a number of memorable battles with the Red Devils during his playing days, with tonight’s clash set to add to that history.

He is the club’s longest-serving captain in history, having worn the armband for 12 years, making 504 appearances for the club.

As a boyhood Red, Gerrard thrived in the big occasions and had his fair share of special moments against Manchester United, one being the fact he is club’s highest goalscorer in the Liverpool versus Manchester United fixture, with nine goals to his name.

While many of the matches are memories to savour, his final game against the Red Devils is one he likely tries to forget after he was sent off within seconds of coming on as a substitute — not the way he would have wanted to bow out from a rivalry in which he had made history like no other player.

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Despite his impressive record and global recognition as one of the finest English footballers of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils’ former legendary manager, disagreed.

While Gerrard sits in the away dugout tonight, Fergie will likely be in the stands at Old Trafford as he often travels to the stadium to watch his former team play.

Writing in his 2013 autobiography, he gave a clear and brutal verdict of Gerard’s playing career, and wrote: “I’m one of the few who felt Gerrard was not a top, top player.”

Many noted that considering Gerrard’s status and remarkable collection of individual awards — including his recent induction into the Premier League Hall of Fame — it was a bizarre claim.

Gerrard was asked about Fergie’s remarks during an appearance on The Clare Balding Show shortly after the release of the book, and revealed the Man Utd boss, who had retired just months earlier, once tried to sign him.

He explained: “I went on trial at Manchester United when I was 13 and had a letter off them wanting to sign me on a seven-year-deal.

“I’m a huge fan of Alex Ferguson and what he’s done in the game is fantastic, that’s the reason why he’s sold that many copies in the first week.

“I was genuinely a little bit gutted when I read that, the reaction of the papers, when he said I’m not a top, top player. But I won’t lose sleep over it, everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

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He continued: “He tried to sign me in, I think, early 2002 or 2003. He tried to sign me again to play for [Manchester] United.”

Gerrard was chased by a number of clubs during his career. In 2004, a £20million move to Chelsea fell through, despite Gerrard telling then Blues boss Jose Mourinho that he would sign for the club.

The following year, just two months after the iconic 2005 Champions League final win in Istanbul, Chelsea returned with a £32million bid.

While it was rejected, Gerrard had handed in a transfer request.

In a statement at the time, he said: “I fully intended to sign a new contract after the Champions League final, but the events of the past five to six weeks have changed all that.”

Yet, barely 24 hours later, and having offered his resignation as captain for his conduct, he performed a U-turn and signed a new deal.

Ms Balding asked him how he felt about the money-spinning offers and what went through his mind as a boyhood supporter of the club.

Gerrard responded: “I am a Liverpool man through and through, but at the time I have to openly admit that it did turn my head.

“At Liverpool at the time we were struggling. At times my relationship with Rafa Benitez was a bit up and down.”

Ultimately, Gerrard stayed at Anfield until 2015. His final appearance for the club was in a 6-1 defeat at Stoke, with Gerrard scoring Liverpool’s only goal.

He spent 18 months at Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy, before hanging up his boots in November 2016 to pursue a career in management.

Manchester United vs Aston Villa airs on BBC One at 7:30pm. Kick-off is at 7:55pm.

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