After The Match 

            


Man U-Liverpool 2-1 (1-0)        Mon Sep 20.                      Premier League
Goals: O'Shea (54 og)           Silvestre (20, 66)
Team: Dudek, Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Finnan, Alonso, Gerrard, Kewell, Garcia, Cisse
Subs: Hamann (Gerrard 40), Baros (Cisse 67)
Not used: Kirkland, Diao, Traore
Yellow: Josemi (45), Alonso (77)      Keane (71)
Red: None
Referee: Graham Poll
Attendance: 67,857

                                                          FIXTURES & RESULTS    
TEAM STATS
Shots on target: 9-3
Shots off target: 5-3
Fouls conceded: 22-15
Corners: 7-2
Yellow: 1-2
Red:

 

0-0

HEADLINES

"...we need
to work on this."

             Rafael benitez

2209: What Benitez has to ponder after this loss
2109: Benitez knows now what has to be corrected
2009: Benitez: A bad result
2009: Fergie applauds "fantastic" Ferdinand
2009: Rio return marks United win

 

SEPTEMBER 22
What Benitez has to ponder after this loss

By Len Capeling - Daily Post

Rafael Benitez saw the Manchester United match as a measure of his evolving team. A gauge as to how well new players and new systems were functioning.

Which means he's a worried man this morning after Liverpool - a short second-half burst apart - allowed a previously struggling United to take the easiest three points they'll take this season.

Excuses may be made about the loss of skipper Steven Gerrard relatively early in the piece.

But ignore them. Liverpool were in deep distress long before the captain indicated that a foot injury had ended his participation in the proceedings.

Indeed, it could be argued that Liverpool looked defensively tighter once Dietmar Hamann came off the bench to show some of his teammates that the ball was there to be fought for.

The elegant Xabi Alonso can also be excused from the general criticism because no-one used the ball to better effect on a night more suited to hatch-battening than playing football.

Alonso, who hardly ever wasted possession even in howling conditions, did not deserve to be on the losing side.

But when there's no focal point to your attack, and when players left and right are not up to the challenge, artistry can count for very little.

Djibril Cisse is quickly becoming Winston Churchill's mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.

He had an early chance, wasn't alert enough to take it, then simply disappeared as an attacking threat, apart from two second-half surges ended - totally incorrectly - by a blindfolded linesman flagging for off-side.

Harry Kewell, another conundrum in football boots, woke up late in the game but on this form is only keeping his place by a whisker from young winger Stephen Warnock.

To compound all this disenchantment Luis Garcia, one of Liverpool's brighter players so far this season, suffered one of his least effective nights.

Too frequently caught in possession, he never got close enough to the isolated Cisse to be of much help.

No wonder Benitez got so het-up. He thought he'd sent out 11 players, but only eight of them actually turned up.

His half-time sort-out seemed to have worked, with Liverpool faster to the ball for the 10 minutes which followed.

For the first time, United were back in the mire and Liverpool's equaliser - courtesy of a John O'Shea own goal - came at a time when they were at their sparkiest. It didn't last.

Mikael Silvestre, who spurned Gerard Houllier all those years ago, bulleted in his second headed goal of the game to put a slump into Liverpool's shoulders.

The watching David Moyes betrayed not a trace of emotion at this turn of events. Two rows behind him wonderkid Wayne Rooney rejoiced with the best of them. Earlier indications were that Rooney would win a place on the bench.

He wasn't, which will have been some relief to Benitez who managed to shackle Ruud van Nistelrooy but found Cristiano Ronaldo - who hit the post from long range - and Ryan Giggs unwilling to be subdued.

So, a lot to ponder for the Spaniard - Liverpool's poor start to a Premier-ship season just got worse, and the bright light of Xabi Alonso is being dimmed by the flickering flames around him.

Norwich City next. But please don't call it a six-pointer. Unless you're in a hurtful mood.


SEPTEMBER 21
Benitez knows now what has to be corrected

By Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post

Every manager learns one or two things from every game his team plays, and school was most definitely in for Rafael Benitez at Old Trafford last night.

His Liverpool team showed their good and bad qualities through the match - good in the display of Xabi Alonso and the way they fought back from a goal down, but bad in the manner they conceded the two goals in identical fashion and in the way some members of the team didn't turn up until it was too late.

To leave an opposition centre-back unmarked once in your own area is careless, but if you do it twice in the same match then you deserve everything you get.

It seemed to me like Liverpool were marking zonally, which is fine in open play, but from corners and free-kicks you need to pick up man for man.

The problem with picking up a zone is that all it takes is for a runner to arrive late and the ball to be delivered in the right area and it leads at the very least to a chance on goal, and probably a goal, as we saw last night.

The good thing about that is that it is easy to sort out - just a 10-minute team meeting before the match where each opposition player is assigned to someone to mark, for instance Sami Hyypia would most likely pick up Ruud van Nistelrooy, Jamie Carragher would take Paul Scholes and so on. That gives your players a clear responsibility to focus upon.

Rafael Benitez has to make that a priority because every other Premiership manager will have taken note of what happened last night as an area to try and exploit.

It will be harder for Benitez to sort out his other problem, that of player performance. He has only been here a few weeks, so I'll cut him some slack, but Luis Garcia needs to be stronger on the ball away from home.

He is all about trying little tricks and flicks and when he is getting plenty of the ball at Anfield that is fine, but I'd like him to exhibit a far greater respect for keeping possession in the future, as well as more desire to hold off tacklers.

On top of that, you are not going to get away with playing Stevie Finnan on the right side of midfield against the better teams, while on the other flank, Harry Kewell - for all his talent and experience - remains an enigma..

One man who did confirm his reputation though was Alonso, who was the best midfield player on the park for me, by a mile.

I wondered before the match whether the intensity and speed of the occasion might be too much for him, but he shone out as a real class act.

Even with Roy Keane and John O'Shea breathing down his neck, he was able to dictate Liverpool's attacking play by taking the minimum of touches and always looking forward while showing a great range of passing.

His attempt on goal from out of nowhere showed what tremendous vision he has and while he may not be the quickest, when you have Steven Gerrard alongside you, you don't have to be.

If Benitez decides to go back to playing two up front, that will only double Alonso's options when he is in possession, which can only be a good thing for Liverpool.

He was the undoubted bright spot of an evening which showed that Benitez has strengths to build upon, but also areas of weakness that need to be rectified if Liverpool are to progress.

No doubt now the optimism of the past week will have been dampened a little, which is no bad thing.

Liverpool will still be fourth in the table or thereabouts, but if they are closer to Arsenal than they were last season, then that will mean progress will have been made.

Mark Lawrenson was talking to NEIL MACDONALD



SEPTEMBER 20
Benitez: A bad result

By Mark Platt - LFC Official Website

Rafael Benitez described Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United as a bad result and added that Steven Gerrard's injury only served to compound the Reds' misery.

Liverpool crashed to a disappointing loss at Old Trafford on Monday night and Benitez later rued the fact that his team conceded two goals from set-pieces.

Benitez says: "We made mistakes and conceded two goals from set-pieces, which is a problem. We needed to control the situation but didn't and we need to work on this.

"I think we played well for only 15 minutes in the first half. We needed to keep the ball better than we did and were better in the second half. But it was a bad result.

"Steven Gerrard will be out for six to eight weeks and needs an x-ray. He has a problem with his metatarsal and we will know more on Tuesday."


SEPTEMBER 20
Fergie applauds "fantastic" Ferdinand

Sporting Life

Sir Alex Ferguson hailed the performance of the returning Rio Ferdinand against Liverpool on Monday night - then predicted the appearance of Wayne Rooney in Manchester United's next Old Trafford outing against Middlesbrough in a fortnight.

Ferdinand's return from his eight-month suspension coincided with one of the most convincing defensive displays United have produced so far this season.

Only an unfortunate John O'Shea own goal breached their rearguard and thankfully for the hosts, two bullet-like Mikael Silvestre headers ensured Ferdinand could celebrate his comeback with a much-needed win.

"I thought Rio was absolutely superb and I don't expect there will be many people disagreeing with that," said Ferguson.

"He has been out for eight months, yet he comes into a game against Liverpool and plays like that.

"He brings balance, composure and surety to our defence. He is just a fantastic player.

"I didn't think it was a risk to put him straight in the side because I have seen him train every day, which is a good measure of how he will go."

With Ferdinand available again, Ruud van Nistelrooy reaching full match sharpness after his third outing of the season and Cristiano Ronaldo showing no ill-effects from his arduous summer, the United squad is starting to show its strength again.

Ferguson still has a few players to come back, notably Rooney, who has yet to make his debut since completing a 27million move from Everton at the end of last month.

The 18-year-old had a further scan today on the foot he broke in England's Euro 2004 defeat to Portugal this summer and the results were encouraging enough to allow the United boss to pencil in a debut date against Middlesbrough on October 3.

"It's going to be about two more weeks," said Ferguson.

"Wayne will go back to see the specialist on Thursday but I think we are looking at the Middlesbrough game.

"By that time we should have Gary Neville and Louis Saha back and then you will start to see the strength of Manchester United."

Even with the players he currently has available, Ferguson's men were too good for Liverpool, who were too timid in the opening half and were unable to capitalise on their fortunate leveller.

The visitors might complain that United were lucky to get the free-kick which Ryan Giggs swung over for Silvestre's first and that they should have had a goal-kick rather than concede a corner when Sami Hyypia was incorrectly ruled to have knocked the ball out of play in the build-up to the Frenchman's winner.

That would be to deny the superiority of United's play though, and Ferguson was accurate in his assessment that the hosts were deserved winners.

"Our first-half performance in particular was excellent," said the Scot.

"We could have been three or four up at half-time and the only worry was that we hadn't capitalised on our chances.

"Their goal was a bit lucky but we didn't handle the situation well. Fortunately, we galvanised ourselves after that, got some tackles in and ended up with the win."


SEPTEMBER 20
Rio return marks United win

By Patrick Goss - Sky Sports

Mikael Silvestre scored a brace of headers on Rio Ferdinand's return to give Manchester United a 2-1 win against Liverpool.

It was a tale of United defenders at Old Trafford, with Ferdinand back in the starting line-up after his eight-month ban, Silvestre scoring two headed goals from set-pieces, and John O'Shea putting through his own net to give Liverpool a life-line just after the break.

All of the pre-match attention was inevitably on Ferdinand, and his return visibly buoyed United - especially with Roy Keane putting in a performance that sadly departed Brian Clough would have been proud of.

The iconic manager's death on Monday was acknowledged by black armbands, and Keane did not look a million miles from the player that made his debut against Liverpool under Clough at Nottingham Forest.

With Cristiano Ronaldo at his effervescent best, and Ryan Giggs putting in a much-improved performance, United had left the crowd as breathless as the flabbergasted Liverpool side in the opening 45 minutes.

Interestingly, it was The Reds that had started the stronger, and if not for Cisse's miskick after Josemi's low cross, could have taken an early lead.

But from then on in it was all Red Devils - with Ronaldo going the width of the post from providing an early candidate for goal of the season.

The Portugal international had skipped round four Liverpool players before cutting back across the pitch and unleashing a left foot drive that flew past the dive of Dudek but thumped the foot of the post.

Two minutes later and United could, and should, have had a penalty when Sami Hyypia clearly held back Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The Dutchman, to his credit, stayed on his feet and had his shot saved by Dudek, but Graham Poll looked to have punished the Manchester United striker for not reacting to the foul.

But United were not to be denied and when Ryan Giggs swung in an enticing free kick from the right flank, the Liverpool defence scandalously failed to mark Silvestre - allowing the Frenchman the simplest task of heading home at the far post.

Josemi had a shot narrowly wide at the other end, but it was a brief respite as a sea of red threatened to engulf the yellow-shirted Liverpool side.

Van Nistelrooy could not find the power to head home another fine Giggs cross, and Ronaldo volleyed narrowly wide - to his evident frustration.

Dudek had to be alert to tip over Gabriel Heinze's header, and van Nistelrooy could not direct another aerial effort after O'Shea's well directed flick on.

Liverpool's cause was not helped by an injury to Steven Gerrard, that saw the England man replaced with minutes left of the half.

But there was still time for O'Shea to find Dudek's arms after Ronaldo had again laid on a fine cross.

Liverpool were desperately in need of a life-line and they were handed it, when O'Shea, again playing in a midfield role that does not seem to suit his abilities, failed to pick up Jamie Carragher from a set piece, and then inadvertently deflected the Liverpool man's header into the back of his own net.

The equaliser pricked the United balloon, and for a while Liverpool looked like the old enemy, but a moment of Giggs magic turned the match back in the hosts' favour.

The Wales international showed immense pace and great strength to blast past John Arne Riise on the wing, and only Hyypia's meaty tackle prevented his run into the box.

From the corner, Giggs picked out Silvestre - unmarked for the second time in the match - and the Frenchman powered a bullet header past the helpless Dudek to restore United's lead.

Xabi Alonso almost caught out Roy Carroll, and a couple of muted penalty appeals fell on deaf ears, before Heinze produced a wonderful stretching clearance to deny a clear scoring opportunity six minutes before the end.

It was a display that United have desperately needed, and whisper it quietly, but Old Trafford was filled with an optimism that may make this title race much more competitive than the early stages have suggested.


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Thor Zakariassen