Steven Gerrard: 'Liverpool fans pay homage but legend uninterested in sentimental return'

Steven Gerrard was warmly applauded when he entered the stadium.

Steven Gerrard strolled down the tunnel with barely a glance or a nod to the fans who wanted to serenade him.

It was clear from the moment he walked out at Anfield that he was very much a manager of Villa and not interested in a sentimental journey back to old territory.

Fans were treated to some golden moments on the big screens as they waited to get into The Kop before the game.

There was a flag on The Kop that paid homage to the returning hero, but the noise and romance of his return was strictly business, and this was strictly for business.

The best moments of the game.

They paid tribute to Ray Kennedy, who passed away recently, and also appreciated another one of their own who will be in the Hall of Fame.

As he emerged from the tunnel, he was given a rousing reception, but his first move was to turn left in the direction of the Villa fans, who were applauding.

When the old songbook was taken away from him early on, he stood drenched in a dark overcoat and focused on the action in front of him.

By the final whistle, he was bitterly disappointed in several counts, including the fact that Villa's captain committed a decisive foul in the area, and that he believed that the foul was committed by Mohamed Salah. Villa should have had a penalty of their own when Danny Ings threatened to cash in on a mix-up between Alisson and Matip.

Even though the fans were comfortable enough to give it another go in celebration of the icon who won the Uefa Cup and League Cup, he was not playing the game.

He was the manager of the fans. The rest was a sideshow. He was treating it like that.

There was going to be some noise around the game. I had so many years here that people appreciate the bond I have with the fans.

The touchline body language alone was worth watching, as the first half saw the manager of the team berating the fourth official and the captain of the team keeping his distance. He was keeping a close eye on his opposite number during what seemed like an endless exchange with the under-siege Scott, even offering an explanation on one occasion when the home bench appeared particularly irate.

It was a very measured afternoon for Steven Gerrard, who was not going to make the mistake of playing to the gallery who loved him, a gallery who increasingly see him as the heir to the throne.

He was focused on Villa, not responding to the fans of the other team. He was not going to allow anyone, particularly the noisy visiting support, an opportunity to even hint at split loyalty.

For a long time Villa were organised and stern enough to suggest they might just escape with a point. They wouldn't have deserved it, but there is renewed steel about Villa since he arrived, with three wins in five games.

This is very much an early work in progress, despite the fact that Villa are not alone in their box-to-box supremacy.

The fact that they took so long into the game before they made the breakthrough, and at least had them and their supporters living on their nerves in those anxious final moments, will give him encouragement.

"He has the skills to become an outstanding manager."

The game plan was clear - take the game beyond the hour with Villa still in the hunt, and see if they could take something.

Villa were prepared to resort to some of the dark arts of game management, such as taking every second over every restart to keep the momentum in their favor, in order to defend with all their resources.

In the end, he was left empty-handed and his wish to lose a little of his popularity in return for a winning journey back down the M6 did not come to pass.

He has credit in the bank, signs of an improving Villa, and suggestions that he has the power to add to the transfer market. Villa have a manager who will be driven to bring success.