As Frank Lampard trotted on to the Anfield pitch - in a desperate attempt to help Manchester City salvage a point to maintain their flickering title ambitions - eight minutes from full-time, it offered proof that the sticking plaster has now replaced holistic therapy at the Etihad Stadium.
Lampard should be preparing for New York City's Major League Soccer opener against Orlando City in -Florida on Sunday, but -circumstances have dictated that the former Chelsea midfielder remains in Manchester to provide some kind of inspiration and experience to Manuel Pellegrini's squad as they pursue Premier League and Champions League silverware.
Lampard is 36. Great player that he has been, his entry into the fray summed up the problems now facing Pellegrini and City - issues which were exposed against a young, vibrant Liverpool showing no ill-effects from a draining Europa League trip to Istanbul from which they returned to Merseyside at 4.20am on Friday.
Pellegrini's team, like the -manager's tactics, are well worn and showing signs of being past their best.
As they headed out of Anfield, City remained in second position, five points behind Chelsea, with the -leaders now having a game in hand. But while conceding his team has problems, Pellegrini insisted that they remained focused on catching the leaders rather than escaping the chasing pack.
"We are worried about our team, not the other teams that are behind us," Pellegrini said. "It is important to try and continue playing the normal way. But there were a lot of problems. There were two goals from Liverpool, very good goals in the top corner and we missed three clear chances. It was a close game, but Liverpool played very well and they deserved to win."
Liverpool's cause was aided by the below-par performances of several of Pellegrini's players. Yaya Toure was anonymous, despite being fresh from missing the Champions League defeat against Barcelona through -sus-pension, while Eliaquim Mangala once again looked to be struggling to justify the pounds 42?million transfer fee sanctioned by Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football.
As for Vincent Kompany, the one-time rock of City's defence appears locked in a downward spiral, with poor positioning, misjudgment and ill-timed tackles now peppering his performances.
Pellegrini will ultimately be judged on the performances of his players and the success of his team and, two seasons into a three-year contract, there are no guarantees he will remain in place to continue the job next season. The Chilean's tactics are coming under scrutiny, with City proving as naive defensively at Anfield as they were against Barcelona.
Pellegrini may have criticised his players for not applying his tactical instructions correctly against -Barcelona, but as the manager the responsibility for that lies with him. But it must be remembered that his appointment as manager -following the sacking of Roberto Mancini two years ago was made so that he could become another spoke in that -'holistic' wheel dreamt up by chief -executive Ferran Soriano.
If Pellegrini is judged to have failed, then Soriano and Begiristain must also answer questions from Abu Dhabi. After all, two years into the holistic project and the team that Mancini built remains in place, with only unremarkable additions to the periphery. Begiristain has failed to recruit the right players, while -Soriano's inability to prevent a -Financial Fair Play sanction last year ensured the club could not punch its weight in the transfer market.
Soriano produced a turn of heel matched only by Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho when he darted out of the directors' box as soon as Mark -Clattenburg's whistle signalled full-time at the end of this defeat, but perhaps he did not want to be the man in the frame when the television cameras panned around.
That misfortune was left to -Pellegrini, who admitted that his team must bounce back with victory against Leicester on Wednesday. "I hope that the team will recover and we can win on Wednesday because every point we drop means it is more difficult for the title."