Kenny Dalglish was plunged immediately back into the heat of managerial controversy last night, declaring - after he had insisted he could handle the pressure which persuaded him to quit the Liverpool manager's job 20 years ago - that the penalty which put Liverpool out of the FA Cup at Manchester United as "a joke".
Dalglish, who reflected in his autobiography that the alternative to resigning in 1991 was "going mad", dismissed suggestions that a return to the job might damage his legendary status at Anfield, despite an extraordinary beginning when referee Howard Webb awarded United penalty 32 seconds into this FA Cup third-round tie.
"Unless they have changed the rules it is not a penalty," Dalglish insisted after Ryan Giggs scored to give United a 1-0 win. "The other one, I cannot see that as a red card either. In the dressing-room before the game someone said to me the game's not changed that much. I said, 'I thought it was a non-contact sport'. Maybe I was right."
The furore surrounding United's progress to face Southampton away in the fourth round, compounded by Steven Gerrard's first-half dismissal, intensified last night when Dalglish's son Paul tweeted that: "Fergie has his puppet Howard Webb on a piece of string."
Dalglish Jnr also circulated an image of the referee -- "MBE -- Member of the Busby Empire, as he called him" -- in a United shirt. Liverpool striker Ryan Babel faces an English FA fine after tweeting a similar image of Webb and declared his reputation as a top referee to be "a joke".
Dalglish, who tweets along with his wife Marina, has just discovered one of the new perils of 21st century management and Gerrard, justifiably dismissed for a 32nd-minute two-footed challenge on Michael Carrick, may also have something to say to Rio Ferdinand, who seemed played his own part in the dismissal.
Ferdinand used the same medium to put his case across. "By the way I never told Howard Webb to send Gerrard off. I just said I thought it was a 2footed tackle," he declared.
Dalglish left Old Trafford -- scene of a legendary 1988 tunnel altercation with Alex Ferguson -- insistent that he can restore pride to Liverpool, despite a performance in which Gerrard's dismissal obscured the old problems visible under Hodgson.
"How do you know you have anything unless you try?" Dalglish said. "I will give everything I have got to put the club in a better position than it is now. I made the decision and I made the one I think was best for myself and the football club."
Despite suggestions that former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke will be appointed No 2, with Sammy Lee moving to the first-team coach role he held under Gerard Houllier, Dalglish insisted he had not time to consider back-room staff.
More may become clear when Dalglish discusses his appointment in more detail today.
"I've not got a preconceived idea about anyone I want to come in, whether there's other targets who the club had in mind before I came in," Dalglish said. "I don't know."
Dalglish's appointment has been a rapid one, with Roy Hodgson taking training on Saturday morning and Dalglish receiving a call from Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry who "said he had spoken to Roy and would I like to come and look after the team till the end of the season."
Dalglish, with his wife aboard a cruise liner, was granted an unscheduled docking at Bahrain at 4am on Saturday.
"Being a professional I was at the bar!" he joked, when asked where he was when the call came in. Dalglish did not meet his players until 10.30am yesterday.
"I thought I had left but the minute I was asked to come back there was no way in the world I was going to insult them by not coming back," added Dalglish, whose side's visit to Blackpool on Wednesday along with the Anfield Merseyside derby on Sunday are more significant and games he will be judged on.
"It's brilliant (to be back)," he said. "It's amazing how quickly your memory comes back to you. It doesn't seem long since I was in the dressing-room, though I'm a wee bit disappointed because last time I was here we won on penalties -- in a Unicef game!"
Though Liverpool look desperately in need of a second striker in the transfer window, Dalglish said he would go with the players he has, if he must.
"If somebody says to me, 'there's a squad of players, would you take that job?' I'd say 'yes. We'll just go with the players we've got'," he said.
"I've not got a preconceived idea about anyone I want to come in."
Ferguson added that Gerrard's challenge was "reckless." He said: "Steven Gerrard is not that type of player really. I don't think he left the referee with any option." (© Independent News Service)