must be given
By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
It doesn’t need a flight across the Atlantic for George
Gillett and Tom Hicks to see how the land lies on this side
The Americans want to give the fans trophies. The fans want
the Premiership trophy. So they didn’t have to be at Anfield
on Saturday to know they’ve got some way to go before they
can fulfil that dream.
Because Liverpool aren’t getting any closer to it – in fact,
this campaign has simply been two steps back from the giant
strides made in the previous one.
Then, Rafael Benitez led his side to their highest points
tally of the Premiership era, a total just one point lower
than United’s yet still a full nine off champions Chelsea.
But the gap was closing, the standards were being raised and
with a full, glorious summer market opening up before
Benitez it seemed that a bit of shrewd investment was all
that was needed to take Liverpool even closer to that
elusive 19th title.
Less than a year later, and Jamie Carragher is talking about
“better players” being needed to end the frustrating wait.
Firmly back to square one.
Liverpool are third, as they were then, but now they stand
10 points behind Chelsea.
And as for Manchester United? Liverpool more than matched
them over 90 minutes on Saturday, but in wider terms, the
champions-elect have shaken them off from the coat tails and
raced away into the distance – now measured at 19 points.
Given that Americans are obsessed with statistics, the new
major shareholders will be well aware of those facts.
But they should also be aware of how the only top-flight
manager Benitez has yet to get the better of, Sir Alex
Ferguson, was able to end his 26-year wait for an Old
Trafford title and why, just 14 years later, he stands on
the brink of his ninth.
Simply, because he was given time and money. Obviously
there’s more to that when building the empire he has, but
without those basics it could have crumbled before the
foundations were in place.
Benitez is nearing the end of his third season at the
Anfield helm – in Ferguson’s world he’s just a wee beginner.
When the Scot won the FA Cup in 1990, he was marking the end
of his third full term with his first trophy. If he hadn’t
won it he probably wouldn’t even have made it to the end of
And it would take another three years for him to deliver the
title the club desperately craved. After the same amount of
time, Benitez already has an FA Cup and achieved Ferguson’s
obsession of conquering European 13 times quicker than him.
Few would back against him doing it again following a
successful job completion against reigning champions
But it doesn’t change the fact that Liverpool see their
rightful place at the top of the English game and this
season has only gone to show how much higher the standards
are that you have to reach to do it.
Certainly more so than in Ferguson’s time. In the first
Premiership campaign of 1992-93, United could have taken the
title with just 75 points – and that was in a 42-game
Win their next game and they will be on that total already
after just 30 games.
The previous two seasons have seen Chelsea set a
frighteningly similar pace and the year before that Arsenal
didn’t even lose a league game on their way to the
Ferguson didn’t have to snap anything like a similar
stranglehold when he broke his title duck. Liverpool were
ageing and their dominance was in decline, while a series of
big-money buys finally edged Ferguson over the finishing
line and he’s rarely looked back.
Nobody is in any doubt that Benitez is the man to bring
similar triumphs back to Anfield, or more realistically
But the letter to America reads, give him the same tools
Time and money – and a lot more of both.
Reds will bounce
back vows Kuyt
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Dirk Kuyt has vowed that Liverpool will bounce back from
the misery of home defeat by bitter enemies Manchester
United to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League.
Liverpool lost their 30-match unbeaten home league record to
a last seconds winner by John O'Shea, that pushed United
closer to the title.
Now Liverpool find their whole season resting on Tuesday's
visit to Anfield of the European champions, as they aim to
protect their 2-1 lead from the first leg in the Nou Camp.
Kuyt knows that if Liverpool do reach the Champions League
quarter-finals, it will make the pain of defeat by United
easier to bare.
And the Dutch striker says: "We may well have seen the
English champions after United beat us, but I can assure
everyone that we will beat Barcelona and reach the Champions
League last eight."
He added: "To lose 1-0 like that, right at the end, is a
tough blow to take. But we will bounce back for the
Champions League, if we play like that we will beat
"If we show the level of skill and effort we did against
Manchester United, I have no doubt that we will win against
Barcelona and go into the quarter-finals."
Liverpool dominated long period of the north west showdown,
but failed to take advantage of the chances that did come
their way and were punished in those last seconds, even with
United down to ten men following the red card for Paul
Peter Crouch, playing with a broken nose, missed a golden
chance in the final minutes that he may well have headed in
other circumstances rather than bring the ball down for a
shot that Edwin van der Sar palmed spectacularly away.
The killer blow came when Jose Reina spilled a Cristiano
Ronaldo free-kick for substitute O'Shea to blast home from
But Kuyt says: "We showed we are better than them, so it was
very disappointing to lose like that.
"I feel that they will now win the title. They have shown
that they are the best in this competition.
"But when you are going to be champions, you need luck as
well, and that is what they had against us.
"But for us to lose like that will bring the players closer
together because we know we deserved more."
Jamie Carragher, tremendous at the back, spelled out
Liverpool's objectives. He said: "The way to make the next
step up for us is buying better players, all over the pitch.
Hopefully not a centre-back!"
That is for the future, though, and boss Rafael Benitez is
determined to raise spirits for the Barcelona clash.
Benitez said: "In the first-half it was very close, but
after the break we had more of the play and they were not
really attacking us.
"But when you can't score you should be careful against a
big club like United.
"I don't know whether Reina is anyway to blame (for United's
goal), sometimes it is concentration but sometimes it is
"We were down afterwards, but we will be very positive and
train hard now with Tuesday in mind. We know we deserved to
"We attacked and controlled the game. We were even able to
control the counter-attack. But it comes down to maybe one
player, their skill, and the delivery of a free-kick."
He added: "But we know that if we have half chances in
matches like this, we have to score. Then it would not
matter what happened in the last minutes.
"But we did not make many clear chances, and that was a
problem for us.
"I do not think Peter worried about his broken nose with
that late chance. Maybe he should have gone with his head,
but in the end there were others who should have taken their
"We have shown we are not too far behind United. They are
top and winning lots of away games, but we deserved to win."
Now Liverpool must turn their frustrations into a decisive
performance against Barcelona.
Benitez said: "We must get this out of our heads and start
thinking about beating Barcelona.
"I do not feel it will be difficult to raise our players for
the Barcelona game. We must be ready and positive, and we
must remember that we were better than United for a long
"We knew that these few days would define our season, now we
have lost one and have Barcelona now. We must realise what
possibilities we now have in the Champions League.
"The best thing now is to concentrate on Barcelona and how
we are going to reach the quarter-finals."
And the title? Benitez believes it will go to United now.
He said: "United are really close now. Chelsea are a good
team but in their situation they cannot make any mistakes."
lack of luck
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez struggled to arrive at an
explanation for his side's defeat to Manchester United,
after John O'Shea's injury time winner stole the spoils at
The home side dominated large spells of the second half
after an evenly fought first, with United rarely looking
like scoring before O'Shea's late intervention.
Ahead of Liverpool's UEFA Champions League clash with
Barcelona on Tuesday, Benitez conceded he was bitterly
disappointed about the manner in which the weekend had
"I would have trouble explaining how we lost that in
Spanish; in English I find it almost impossible," said
"We dominated the game, were in control and had plenty of
attacks. Sometimes football is all about luck. When you have
so much of the play and make chances without scoring, you
must be careful against a team as good as United.
"United have a great defence and a fine goalkeeper. He
stopped one from Peter Crouch at the end everyone felt was
going in. But although we had so much of the game, we did
not make too many chances.
"The decision to disallow Craig Bellamy's effort in the
first half for offside was right. It just was not our day."
Fergie delight at 'massive' win
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could barely
contain his glee after watching his side grind out a
Despite being under pressure for most of the second half, as
Liverpool turned the screw on home soil, it was United that
forged a 12-point advantage over Chelsea at the Premiership
summit thanks to John O'Shea's last minute intervention.
Just as they did last week against Fulham, United secured a
victory from a game in which they were far from at their
best and Ferguson was willing to acknowledge Liverpool were
the superior side on the day.
"It was a fantastic result," he told Sky Sports. "We had a
lot of narrow escapes and Liverpool upset our rhythm.
"They will feel very unlucky and they deserve to. It is a
massive result for us. We broke away late on against Fulham
and scored and now we`ve done it here.
"We`ve had that bit of luck in the last two weeks but you
need luck if you are to win titles.
"There is a 12-point difference but I don`t think anything
is impossible in modern-day football. In 1998 we had a great
lead going into an Arsenal match but we had some terrible
"The pool then was nothing like as strong as it is today
though. That helps us."
United's win was tempered by Paul Scholes' late red card for
a swing at Xabi Alonso and an injury that forced Wayne
Rooney off with a gashed knee and Ferguson admitted it was a
double blow to contend with.
"I`m not sure what happened with Scholes but it`s a
disappointment for us," he concluded.
"It looks like a knee injury (to Rooney) but we`ll have to
Last gasp United steal spoils
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
If Premiership titles are won by grinding out results
without playing well then this could just be Manchester
United's year as they escaped from Anfield with a three
point haul, courtesy of a 1-0 victory over a Liverpool side
that bossed the whole of
the second half.
The most intriguing aspects of a game that was more mediocre
than magnificent all occurred in the final few minutes, as
United cemented a 12 point advantage over Chelsea thanks to
substitute John O'Shea's winner in injury-time.
It was another substitute, this time Liverpool's Peter
Crouch that just moments before was denied by a world class
save, as Edwin Van der Sar sprawled across his goal to
produce a title winning intervention.
United's afternoon was tempered somewhat when with five
minutes remaining Paul Scholes lost his head in swinging but
missing with an air punch in the direction of Xabi Alonso,
that culminated in not quite a knock-out but a red card
The first half was a game of chess, albeit of a more robust
variety than which Mr Kasparov is accustomed, with both
sides nip and tuck in the opening sparring that only
sporadically showed genuine quality.
As is so often the case in the North West's most fiercely
contested derby chances were at a premium, at least in
comparison with tackles, as Patrice Evra set the tone in
just the second minute in going through the back of Steven
With temperatures raised Craig Bellamy had the first sniff
of goal moments later but Van der Sar was alive to the scent
and was out smartly to defend with his feet.
Daniel Agger's jackhammer of a left foot sent a drive from a
full 35-yards searing over the top, before on the counter,
Cristiano Ronaldo dragged his snapshot wide on the turn. As
United began to settle into a semi-rhythm Ronaldo again was
presented with a sight at goal from Henrik Larsson's
sumptuous flick but it was a similar outcome as the
Portuguese shot over.
Liverpool's main avenue in an attacking sense came through
moving Nemanja Vidic from the centre, where he excels, to
out wide, where he looked cumbersome against Craig Bellamy's
lively forays down the right.
It was from one such raid that Bellamy disposed a ponderous
Vidic before from the by-line delivering a ball across goal
that was just too heavy for Dirk Kuyt. While it was United
that perhaps used possession more intelligently, it was
Liverpool that continued to go closest to opening the
scoring as John Arne Riise hit a free-kick just wide,
despite the presence of a wall that broke all records in
terms of proximity to the ball without being penalised.
The final action of the half saw Jamie Carragher demonstrate
a remarkable determination with a fine piece of defending
that denied first Ronaldo and then a subdued Wayne Rooney in
Whatever was said in the home side's dressing room clearly
had a galvanising effect for it was Liverpool that came out
the bolder and more inventive in their play. Barely had a
minute passed when Steven Gerrard hurriedly controlled and
volleyed high when he could have struck first time and then
Bellamy spurned a presentable opening.
Kuyt's beautifully disguised pass was perfectly weighted
into the path of his partner, but the Welshman's touch was
heavy, meaning his second was off-balance as Van der Sar was
forced into a comfortable stop.
Bellamy's next contribution was more assured as he put the
ball into United's net, only to have his celebrations
curtailed by a sharp sighted linesman who made the correct
United's own attacking efforts looked positively limp in
comparison as first Larsson, making his last Premiership
appearance being seemingly heading back to Helsingborgs, was
replaced by Louis Saha and then more worrying was the sight
of Rooney leaving the field with a badly gashed knee,
courtesy of Carragher's high challenge.
Prior to this and Riise again showed the full venom of his
left foot with a drive from distance that dipped just over,
as United toiled manfully but showed little of the chutzpah
that has propelled them to the summit.
Saha called for a penalty as he tumbled in the box as Agger
took his standing foot but it would have been cruel on a
Liverpool side that were the brighter throughout the second
Liverpool's effort were, though, to prove all in vain as the
final stages brought the most dramatic of climaxes as O'Shea
inscribed his name in derby day folklore.
Ronaldo's fizzing free-kick brought only an unconvincing
parry from an unsighted Jose Reina and from the rebound the
Irishman secured certainly the three points; and most likely