Sir Alex Ferguson's assessment in his autobiography that Steven Gerrard 'is not a top, top player' has sparked heated debate this week.
The statement has even drawn Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to hit back, stating: "I don't think it was credible, what was said. You only need to look at Steven's career to see that; the accolades he has received throughout his life, not just from managers but from other top, top players."
Joining Neil Ashton on the Sunday Supplement was author of Ferguson's book and journalist for The Telegraph, Paul Hayward, who looked to clarify some of the comments made about the Liverpool captain.
Hayward said: "He (Ferguson) likes him, because he tried to buy him around the time that it looked as if Gerrard was going to leave Anfield and probably go to Chelsea.
"Manchester United made a 'show for him', as Sir Alex Ferguson describes it, so he wanted him in a Manchester United shirt and that shows he rates him.
"The discussion about whether he was a top, top player was in the context of Michael Carrick and why he didn't get many caps for England, because Gerrard and Lampard were more dominant personalities and had more bravado, as Ferguson put it.
"He was saying he was an extremely good player, a top player. But what he meant by he's not a 'top, top player' was that he's a not a Zinedine Zidane; he was talking on the world level, he wasn't disparaging Steven Gerrard remotely.
"If Brendan Rodgers had actually read the chapter before getting drawn in to those questions in the press conference, he might of spotted that and realised that actually, Ferguson does rate him.
"He was saying he's a good player, an extremely good high-class Premier League player but that he's not in the world elite and whether you agree with that or not that's an opinion and it seems to have provoked this fury on Merseyside, some of which was directed at me!"
Patrick Barclay of The Times believes that Ferguson should have made his opinions clearer with examples of what attributes you need to be a 'top, top player'.
"I think it was ill-advised not to define what 'top, top' is," added Barclay.
"I think if Ferguson had said 'Steven Gerrard is not of the quality of Diego Maradona and Pele and Lionel Messi' there wouldn't be any controversy. If what he's saying is he's not as good as Paul Scholes - that wouldn't be my opinion, but that at least it is a tenable opinion.
"I just feel that is would have been helpful for him to have defined what a top, top player is."
Manchester-based journalist Neil Custis of The Sun also disagreed with Ferguson's comments about Gerrard, but insisted that the former United manager held rivals Liverpool in high-regard.
He said: "I think what Steven Gerrard alone did in Istanbul puts him in that top, top echelon because what you do in a European Cup and a European Cup final puts you down as a legend.
"In Liverpool particularly there's been a lot of controversy about what Ferguson has said, but he's also very praiseworthy of them; talking about them in glowing terms in that they were the 'shadow on his shoulder' and that he was always fearing them."
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