When Kenny Dalglish sensationally stood down as manager the day after the remarkable 4-4 FA Cup 5th round replay with Everton at Goodison Park on 20 February 1991, the club turned to 56-year-old Ronnie Moran to look after first-team matters until a permanent successor to Dalglish could be named. Moran was the obvious candidate to come to the rescue in a crisis. After all he had been involved at Anfield in one capacity or another since 1949 and knew the club inside out. At first, Ronnie was just happy to cover the manager’s post for a temporary period but he wasn’t looking to secure the job on a full-time basis. He inherited a team that was top of the table and still very much involved in the race for the championship with Arsenal. Ronnie’s first task was to lift the gloom around the club and prepare the first team for a visit to Luton the following Saturday. The whole club still seemed to be in shock after Dalglish’s departure and suffered a tame 3-1 defeat at Kenilworth Road. The next two matches were lost as well, the FA Cup second replay at Goodison and more crucially the home league fixture with title rivals Arsenal, decided by Paul Merson’s second-half goal. Despite these three defeats, Liverpool appointed Ronnie as acting manager until the end of the campaign.
After his appointment, three victories followed , the third of which was a stunning 7-1 triumph at the Baseball Ground against soon-to-be-relegated Derby County on a day when the Reds went back to the top of the table because of Arsenal’s failure to win at Norwich. But the two Easter fixtures ended in disappointing defeats, at home to QPR and away to Southampton, and those results put Arsenal firmly in charge of the championship’s destiny. Ronnie Moran stayed in charge for only two more matches, an uninspiring 1-1 home draw with Coventry and an astonishing game at Elland Road against Leeds, which Liverpool won 5-4 after holding a 4-0 lead with less than a third of the match played.
There had been constant rumours about who was going to succeed Dalglish as manager and most of those rumours seemed to centre on Graeme Souness at Glasgow Rangers. It looked as if the club’s former skipper would be unveiled as the new manager at the end of the season but as media interest escalated it made his position at Ibrox almost untenable and he eventually moved south just before Liverpool were due to play Norwich City at Anfield on 20 April 1991.
Ronnie Moran had been a willing deputy for a few weeks with a modest record of four victories, one draw and five defeats. What is not known to most is that Ronnie had a change of mind and had asked for the job permanently, but the board then told him he was a week late as they had already decided to hire Souness. Moran was though happy to be kept on as a number two to Souness. He had to deputise for his boss the following year when Souness announced to the world after the drawn FA Cup semi-final with Portsmouth that he would be admitted to hospital almost immediately for heart-surgery. Ronnie was in charge for the final seven league matches of that 1991/92 season plus the successful FA Cup semi-final replay with Portsmouth (the first to be decided on penalties) before Souness returned for the cup final, closely watched by a doctor, with Ronnie having the honour of leading the Liverpool team out on the big day at Wembley.
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"There is a famous picture of me after the final whistle running towards Ronnie Moran. It looks as if I was dashing across to throw my arms around him, but in fact I was asking for my two false teeth. I had to look the part in the post-match photo session."
Tommy Smith on the celebrations after the European final in 1977
"He was never satisfied with a performance, no matter how impressive. There was always something he would have a moan about. As far as I was concerned at that time, he didn’t know when to stop. He got on my nerves, but then he also got on the nerves of every player on the staff. On the surface, you can never win with him. But subconsciously you are winning because he is firing you up and always pushing you towards the next challenge. A lot of the people take him the wrong way. I still can’t get my head around his attitude at times."
Tommy Smith on Ronnie Moran