During yesterday’s pre-match press conference, Steven Gerrard talked at length with the media about the four main centre-backs currently at his disposal.
Of late, he has preferred the Connor Goldson and Gareth McAuley partnership. The duo have struck up a fairly strong understanding since the latter’s return from injury.
However, Gerrard did draw attention to McAuley’s age during the presser.
While he praised the professionalism that has allowed the veteran to play for so long, he also explained that he needs to manage him differently to the other centre-backs.
He was mainly referring to the fact that as an experienced performer, the Northern Ireland international doesn’t need the same level of advice as his much younger fellow defenders.
Other aspects must also be managed
Surely, his workload must also come under consideration.
At 39, McAuley is actually older than Gerrard. With that in mind, surely it was a bit of a stretch to ask him to play 270 minutes in the space of six days.
He was included in the starting XI nonetheless, but didn’t manage to finish the match. Instead, he pulled up lame after an hour. His withdrawal, seemingly due to a muscle injury, has multiple repercussions.
Firstly, it used up a substitution on the night, limiting the managers options later in the game.
More importantly, though, the injury could potentially sideline the defender until after the winter break.
Crucially, Gerrard could be without a main lieutenant for the Old Firm game.
After an appearance for the reserves on Monday, this seemed a perfect time to reintroduce Nikola Katic. Instead, the decision not to rest McAuley may now leave Rangers dangerously short over a crucial period.