He still admires Wayne Rooney and had advice for Luis Suárez but really just wants to win the Premier League title
Steven Gerrard hears the question, gives a wry half-smile at the mention of his friend's name, and interrupts with a polite affirmative that cuts amusingly through the waffle that has surrounded the subject all summer.
"Yes," he says. "Wayne Rooney staying at Manchester United is bad news for us. Simple as that. He is a top player. I know how good Wayne is, I've worked with him for a long time. I know him personally and I know how much he loves playing against Liverpool. Would United be weaker without him? Yes."
At 33 the Liverpool captain has lost much of his former diffidence and now speaks with a quiet, confident authority. Always an intelligent individual, the mature Gerrard gives every impression of wanting to savour his last few playing years at his only club, even to the extent of sharing his opinions openly and honestly when asked. No subject is off limits, no intervention is required from his LFC minder, Gerrard tackles what comes his way with something approaching the instinctive enthusiasm he shows on the pitch. If a player who seemed impossibly youthful for most of his career is now at the elder statesman stage, English football can congratulate itself on having such a forthright, articulate one.
He laughs at the suggestion Rooney's summer of uncertainty might have affected his concentration. Other players' heads might not be right, to use the current vernacular, but not this one. "His head looked all right the other night to me," Gerrard says. "He was the best player on the pitch against Chelsea.
"I've been in that situation myself when there's speculation about your future. It does affect you, it's in every paper, every TV channel you put on, but Wayne's experienced enough now to cope with the attention. He's had attention on him since he was 16 years of age. If he plays against us there's no doubt in my mind that he can play well. It will be a touch of luck for United if he stays because he'll be wanting to break records very soon. I think he'll have a fantastic season for them, which is not good news for everyone else in the Premier League."
The good news for Liverpool, if not everyone else in the Premier League, is that Luis Suárez appears to be staying put too. Gerrard is not only happy about that, he has done his bit as club captain in persuading the feisty Uruguayan to be patient. "The manager has had the most conversations with Luis but I had daily chats with him too," he says. "I sit next to him, being the No8 next to the No7. I think you know what I've been saying but Luis had a decision to make for himself and hopefully he will decide the best thing is to stay here for a little bit longer."
Liverpool have presented a united front over Suárez all summer, apart from newly retired defender turned pundit Jamie Carragher raising a few eyebrows with his assertion that the player might now be too big for the club. "I was a bit surprised by that, because I don't believe any player is too big for this club," Gerrard says.
"It's just the same at United, the club is always bigger than the players. I can understand maybe an element of what he meant because I was frustrated too when Luis was just being linked with Arsenal. I don't want to disrespect Arsenal in any way. They are a fantastic club but I don't see it as a step forward for Luis in his career.
"There are only two or three clubs he should leave this club for if he is taking a step forward. I understand we're a little bit off the Champions League at the moment but it would be a shame to ruin the relationship he has got with the supporters to go to another English club. I saw what happened to Fernando Torres, I don't think he should make that type of move and that's the advice I gave to him."
Torres did end up with a Champions League medal, though Gerrard believes Suárez should move on from Anfield in the right way, at the right time. It is typical of him to mention not only the support Suárez has had from the terraces but the loyalty he has had from the club, some of which he owes back. "The support the fans have given him has been phenomenal," he says. "They haven't once jeered him or tried to push him or fall out with him.
"They absolutely idolise him, so surely he wants to walk out with his head held high and go to a Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich. He can walk into any side in the world, he's that good. No one would begrudge him such a move, but for me it is important to be clapped out and clapped back in if you ever return in the future.
"People talk about player power but players have got to realise there is a loyalty they need to pay back at certain times. Luis has got to openly admit that the club has stood behind him on a couple of massive occasions and rewarded him with new contracts.
"Everyone must start realising that the club has been fair to him. I hope he stays, I'd love him to be available against United, because there were times last season when he was so unbelievable I could see why people were calling us a one-man team. Hopefully, we can get the transfer window out of the way and he's still with us, though it is ridiculous that it extends so far into the season. For everyone's benefit – supporters, media, players – it would be better to get the window out of the way before the season starts so we can all focus on the games."
Always an evocative fixture, Sunday's game against United at Anfield will mark the start of Liverpool celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of Bill Shankly's birth, and will also bring David Moyes back to Merseyside for the first time since leaving Everton. Gerrard is a fan of both, though, of course, he knows the new United manager rather better.
"I've met David many, many times, had good chats with him and his knowledge of football is fantastic," he says. "People don't realise Everton is a massive club and how much pressure there is to do well there, and David has had them punching above their weight for a long time with the amount of money he's had available. He's done a fantastic job. I have no doubt he's going to continue to be successful. From a biased point of view I naturally hope United have a wobble. I just can't see it though because they've got too many good players."
That's the Rooney, Suárez and Moyes boxes ticked, what about the captain of England himself? Gerrard appears happy in his own skin these days, content to stay a one-club man at Liverpool after the well-publicised flirtations with Chelsea, though he accepts some of his unrealised ambitions may remain out of reach. "It's not exactly a secret that I would like to win a Premier League title, but at 33 I have to be realistic and say there might only be two or three years left in which to do it," he says.
"A lot of things would have to happen within the next 12 months, or the next two years. I've got two years left on my contract and realistically I'm quite a distance away from winning the league at the moment. I have to take that on the chin but I'll never give up fighting for it. Getting back into the Champions League might be a more achievable target – it would be a dream for me to lead the team out again on a big European night at Anfield – but even that is going to be difficult. The other four teams have all strengthened – maybe Manchester United have not done so yet but I feel they will make a big signing before the deadline – so there's still a lot of hard work to do and a lot of improvement needed if we are to nudge one of those sides out of the top four."
Yet money and medals are not everything, not when you are a Scouser playing for Liverpool who recently topped a fresh, all-time poll of Players Who Shook The Kop. Kenny Dalglish came second, Ian Rush third, since you ask.
Gerrard has most things he wanted out of life, and is appreciative. "I could have moved, I could have earned more money and won more things," he admits. "But this is where I'm going to be living for the rest of my life. This is the club and these are the people who are important to me. When the crunch came, I made my decision and I've no regrets."