Brendan Rodgers has launched a stout defence of Steven Gerrard after Alex Ferguson claimed in his newly published autobiography that the Liverpool and England captain was "not a top, top player."
Bitterness has frequently characterised the relationship between Liverpool and Manchester United, but Rodgers (above) said he was shocked and baffled by Ferguson's "incredible" barbs against both Gerrard and team-mate Jordan Henderson, whose running style was criticised.
The Liverpool manager thinks there is now a danger that Ferguson may be remembered for his bitter criticisms in retirement rather than his achievements during his 26 years in charge of United.
"I think Alex is one of the very few, if not the only one, who thinks Steven's not a top player," Rodgers said of his 33-year-old talisman.
"I don't think it's credible in terms of what was said. I think you only need to look at Steven's career since he's been here to see that, and the accolades he's received all through his life. Not just from managers, but from players and top players.
"He may not have won the title, but that's more because of the teams he's been in rather than him, himself. He's a world-class player and playing at the highest level."
Rodgers may have been surprised at what he perceived as an attack by Ferguson on Gerrard, since the former Manchester United manager had lauded him in an interview in 2004. Ferguson labelled Gerrard "the most influential player in England, bar none" and said "anyone would love to have him in their team."
Ferguson claims Henderson's gait will cause him trouble in the latter stages of his career because the midfielder runs from his knees with a straight back.
But Rodgers said such comments from one of the game's elder statesmen could have a harmful effect on the 23-year-old and that Henderson would be entitled to an apology were he to meet Ferguson in the future.
"Those comments surprised me, I have got to be honest," he said. "I was bitterly disappointed, coming from someone with that status in the game. On reflection, as someone who has worked with young players and understands the impact words can have with them. For a young player making his way in the game, it could be damaging.
"Understanding Jordan like I do – he is a great kid, a real honest boy who will work and fight to be the best that he can be – I'm sure that if he (Ferguson) bumps into him, hopefully he will apologise."
The criticisms could eventually rebound on Ferguson and damage his reputation, Rodgers believes. "I think there is a sadness to it as this is something that will probably stay with people for a long while.
"You know, his achievements in the game have been well-documented and seen by all.
"I think every football person would have enjoyed seeing him going out and leaving his incredible legacy. But now people are only going to talk about his comments in the book.
"He's obviously waited his time and felt his time to retire was the time to put a few things right. But it's for me to protect the club and I can understand some of the comments when you have been such a successful club like Liverpool and you have been chasing them for so many years.
"You have to find ways to bring them down. Liverpool is a club that has class and history and a club that in the modern era is fighting to get back to that level."
So, despite the criticism, will Rodgers pick up a copy of the book?
"No I won't. There's been enough reaction in the past few days. I've got enough to worry about and concentrate on with my football club." (© Daily Telegraph, London)