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The key for Coutinho is helping him enjoy game again, says Steven Gerrard

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Steven Gerrard has pledged to get statement signing Philippe Coutinho smiling again after delivering a huge message of intent by recruiting the Barcelona playmaker on loan, while adding Everton left-back Lucas Digne for £25 million.

outinho is poised to make his debut against Manchester United tonight, possibly from the bench.

A former team-mate of Gerrard’s at Liverpool, Coutinho endured a difficult spell after joining Barcelona for £142 million, a signing often held up as evidence of the Catalan club’s profligate spending.

But Gerrard insists the Brazil international can have a huge impact on Villa’s season and finally start enjoying his football again.

“You can see clearly that he’s a player who needs to feel loved and supported, like the majority of footballers,” he said. “It’s mine and the staff’s job, and the job of his new team-mates and the supporters, to get him feeling good about himself.

“If you get a happy Philippe Coutinho who is enjoying his football, the talent doesn’t leave you.

“Has that enjoyment gone for him over the last few years? Possibly, yes. I think Philippe would say that himself and that’s probably the reason why we’ve had the opportunity to bring him here.”

Gerrard is hoping to make further signings this month but is first targeting revenge against United after Villa were dumped out of the FA Cup on a controversial evening, when the dominant visitors were left frustrated after being denied a goal following a lengthy VAR review.

United have not lost at Villa Park in the Premier League since 1995, yet Gerrard insists his players will be fired up by the sense of injustice.

“As a player, if that record is not enough motivation for you, you are in the wrong building and under the wrong manager, especially after getting knocked out of the FA Cup,” he said. “There has to be even more determination to try to change the mood and the feeling.

“The players didn’t feel they deserved the outcome of the game, but we have to accept it, be professional and not feel sorry for ourselves and put in a top performance and really leave it out there.

“I’m sure the stadium will be bouncing. I’m sure there will be a little more of an edge because of what happened on Monday night.

“We can’t wait for it, we’re in a good place. We just need to go and execute the performance with a result.” 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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