McManaman did lift the FA Cup and League Cup during his nine seasons at Anfield, but as it so often the case with the top players, he thinks just as much about the trophies he didn’t win.
“The biggest regret of my career was not winning more with Liverpool,” he says. “We had a good team, but we never quite managed to get over the line with a very strong Manchester United side standing in our way.
“I would love to have won the Premier League or Champions League with Liverpool.
“Should we have done more with that team? I don’t know. We played some great football during Roy Evans’ reign as manager, but we didn’t quite have the winning factor.”
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• • • •
McManaman joined Liverpool as a 16-year-old in 1988, even turning down boyhood team Everton in favour of the Reds, but when the chance came to join Real Madrid in 1999 he jumped at the opportunity, and it’s certainly not a decision he has regretted since.
“I was offered nearly the same money by Liverpool, but I wanted to experience something different abroad, and the chance to join Real Madrid was an incredible opportunity.
“Scoring in the 2000 Champions League final (for Real against Valencia) and winning that trophy for the first time was the best moment of my career.
“It is the ultimate moment for a professional footballer playing in Europe, and to do it for Real Madrid was incredible because the competition means so much to that club. So while that goal was not the best of my career, it was the most memorable.
“I loved my time in Spain. Liverpool was home for me, but the chance to experience life in Spain and play a different type of football was a wonderful adventure.
“To have a bit of success in a wonderful Real Madrid team was the cherry on the cake for me and to have won the Champions League twice is an achievement I’m very proud of.
“And to be fair to Liverpool fans, I have always had a great reception when I have gone back for charity games and the like. I think they appreciate a local player coming through the ranks and doing well. Even if I was an Everton fan!”
McManaman’s two former clubs could yet meet in the Champions League this season, with Liverpool recording a phenomenal 5-0 win at Porto in the first leg of their last-16 tie, and Real Madrid coming from behind to beat PSG in the first leg of their tie in Spain.
McManaman believes Liverpool are well suited to the competition, but he also acknowledges they still have issues at the back and believes rotation in that area is not helping matters, particularly between the sticks.
“They could do well,” the BT Sport pundit says. “They will not be up against teams who will sit back and try to defend against them with a defensive block. Liverpool are not good against those tactics, but they will not get that in the Champions League.
“If Liverpool played Real Madrid tomorrow, you’d expect them to score a few goals against them. The problem would be that they would also concede plenty of goals and that is what you get from them.
“Defending has been a problem for Liverpool for a long time now. Individual errors have been an issue and not just at the back.
“Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum were at fault for some of the goals against West Brom (in a 3-2 defeat in the FA Cup) and they have to defend better as a group. Successful teams defend as a unit and Liverpool need to do better with that.
“But from the Swansea to the West Brom game, the keepers and the full-backs were changed, and that can’t be a good policy.
“I rather he just pick one keeper and go with the best one. It is just causing confusion for everyone the way it has been handled. To start with, Karius was playing in the Champions League, Mignolet in the Premier League and Danny Ward in the League Cup.
“Going out at the first stage of the League Cup meant Danny Ward has not had a look in since, but the goalkeeper flip-flopping from week to week has not been good for anybody and especially the keepers themselves.”
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By Kevin Palmer
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