We need a lethal
weapon up front
By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Rafa Benitez won't need to watch a re-run of the defeat
to Manchester United to know where his side came unstuck.
There's still a vacancy in his squad for a lethal finisher.
Until the Reds find one, there's always a danger they'll
suffer in fixtures such as this.
When you go to Old Trafford, you know chances are going to
be few and far between. That's where true quality shows.
Unfortunately, Liverpool squandered opportunities which came
It's not particularly pleasant to point the finger at
individuals in such circumstances because no-one
deliberately tries to miss a chance.
But there are times when you just have to acknowledge the
class didn't show when it mattered in front of goal.
Benitez won't be surprised by this, of course.
We all know he tried to sign Michael Owen in the summer, and
no strikers have arrived since then.
There's no question Liverpool still look short in this area.
Against lesser sides, it may not appear so apparent.
But in the toughest venues against the best defenders, you
simply can't afford to carry anyone.
I suspect it's too late in the month for anyone to join for
the rest of the season.
In fact, one of the more natural finishers has temporarily
left the club to improve his fitness.
Neil Mellor is the kind of poacher who'll always pop up with
a goal and it's a shame he's been out for so long.
I worked with Mellor when I was at Liverpool. Appearances
are deceptive with him because of his style of play, but
I'll bet he'll score plenty for Wigan between now and May.
Despite the defeat to United, Liverpool remain in contention
for the runners-up spot.
But if they're to close the gap to Chelsea before the start
of next season, a goalscorer must be at the top of the
didn't mean to upset Reds'
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Gary Neville admitted today that his actions in the
Manchester United goal celebrations at Old Trafford on
Sunday were not intended to be disrespectful to Liverpool.
And he has asked Reds fans to put his post-match antics into
The Manchester United skipper used his column in a daily
newspaper to defend his actions, saying: "It was a new one
for me to hear people saying that I had celebrated too
vigorously on Sunday.
"Let us put it in context . . . it's the biggest domestic
match of the season for us and the stakes are raised even
higher when, in the week before, all you hear is people
saying that Liverpool are the coming force, ready to shove
United down the pecking order.
"So then you battle through a tough match and, just when it
looks as though it will end with a frustrating, but fair
draw, Rio Ferdinand scores a fantastic headed winner, a goal
that has come out of nothing after 90 minutes of massive
tension. What are you meant to do? Smile sweetly and jog
back to the halfway line?
"You are caught up in the moment and, yes, for a few seconds
you can go bananas. I laughed when I heard someone say that
it was not the behaviour of a 30-year-old because they are
probably the same people who have accused us of lacking
passion in recent games.
"No disrespect to Liverpool was intended. I would have been
apologetic if I had run up to one of their players and tried
to belittle them, but this was a celebration."
The United defender has been reported by Greater Manchester
police, following complaints over his antics.
He ran 60 yards to gesticulate to the away fans following
Rio Ferdinand's last minute winner - scored at the opposite
end of the stadium.
But in his defence, he added: "Last week, I had to put up
with a Liverpool lad taunting our fans during the Manchester
derby, but at no point did I even consider that Robbie
Fowler should be punished.
"The stick is part of the game. One week you take it on the
chin, the next you give it out. That is how local rivals
have always been - and always should be.
"I had two plasterers in last week who insisted on wearing
Manchester City hats and making a comment every time I
walked past, but I don't sack them for it.
"I have to put up with Liverpool fans singing plenty of
songs about me, none of them tasteful, and I struggle to
believe that I have caused them any grave offence with an
"Increasingly, people seem to want their footballers to be
whiter than white and there are calls for sanctions over
every little incident. Do they want a game of robots?
"If I was a Liverpool fan, my big upset would be losing the
match. I have enough perspective on football to say that
they didn't deserve to and they will have come off wondering
how on earth it happened.
"They have become a solid, consistent team with a real work
ethic and some good players. That made it extra pleasing to
How to avoid
the heartache next time
By Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post
The manner of Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United was
very hard to take for everyone connected with the club.
But when manager Rafael Benitez recovers from the obvious
frustration he felt at the outcome, he will be able to
console himself with the fact that his charges are the
Even losing a goal in the final minute at a set piece to
arguably your greatest rivals should not be allowed to
overshadow the continuing progress Liverpool are making
The visitors dominated the game at Old Trafford. The only
area where they fell short of the high standards they are
setting was in front of goal. A game that should have been a
2-0 win, ended up as a defeat.
If Liverpool are now at point B, and point A is being able
to go toe to toe with Chelsea, then they need to add an out
and out goal scorer to bridge that gap.
If Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney were wearing the red
of Liverpool rather than United, then the title would be on
its way to Anfield.
But I am sure it is an area Benitez is looking to
strengthen, if not immediately then during the summer.
Peter Crouch has become a valuable all-round player for the
team, but is not a prolific scorer, while Djibril Cisse
needs too many chances to score. Fernando Morientes provides
another option, but a proven, top class striker with the
ability to deliver goals would help Liverpool to a higher
Elsewhere Liverpool look very strong, from a midfield
including a rejuvenated Harry Kewell to the miserly defence.
So emphatic was Liverpool's control of proceedings at Old
Trafford that Wayne Rooney was forced to beat three or four
players to try and create chances while the visitors also
starved his strike partner of possession.
They passed the ball well and their movement was good. The
fact that their marking slipped at a crucial moment should
be weighed against the number of free kicks the defence has
successfully repelled during their unbeaten run.
Cisse missed a golden chance to change the course of the
game in the second half, and also failed to take advantage
of a superb Steven Gerrard pass in the first half. He seems
to score most of his goals when the ball is played in front
of him between or down the sides of defenders, but doesn't
always react as quickly a you might hope to opportunities.
I would still back Liverpool to finish second, the only
reservation being whether the intense involvement of their
continued progress in the Champions League at a time when
United can take the midweek off makes it more difficult for
them to pick up points at the weekends.
fancy Reds tie
By Paul Higham - Sky Sports
Benfica are confident they can knock Liverpool out of the
UEFA Champions League after watching The Reds' 1-0 defeat at
Benfica boss Ronald Koeman and his assistant Tony Bruins
Slot travelled to Manchester to see Liverpool suffer a
last-minute defeat at Old Trafford, as they prepare to face
Rafa Benitez's side in the knockout phase of the
Slot says that he and Koeman were impressed with what they
saw from the European champions, saying that they are a
better side than United - who Benfica knocked out in the
"Liverpool are stronger than Manchester United," said Slot.
"They are a well organised team in defence. They play with
their 4-4-2, but it soon becomes a 4-2-4 when they are on
"The defence is solid and they do not give any space to
their opponents, something which is typical of the style of
Benitez - who we know well from our time in Spain.
"They are a very difficult team to beat."
Slot admitted skipper Steven Gerrard would be the main
danger man, but insisted Liverpool's strength was in their
"Gerrard is the star, the most important player," added
Slot. "But the force of Liverpool is in the way they act as
After knocking United out of the Champions League in the
group stages, the Portuguese side are now confident they can
do the same to the defending champions.
"We have seen Manchester United defeat them, and we can also
do it. We have our weapons."
Carra: Neville went too far
Jamie Carragher reckons Gary Neville "crossed the line"
with his celebrations after Manchester United's winning goal
against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Neville was seen to rush towards the Liverpool fans in the
stadium after Rio Ferdinand's last-gasp headed winner,
screaming and with arms pumping before clutching the United
badge on his shirt.
Liverpool defender Carragher thinks England squad mate
Neville went too far, telling the Liverpool Echo: "I think
there's a line and Neville crossed it.
"I've heard people say it's justified because he gets a lot
of stick from the Liverpool fans, but the truth is he gets
the stick because he's been doing that for years. That's why
it all started.
"I feel the same way about Liverpool as Neville does about
Manchester United and from that point of view we're similar,
but I don't act like that when we score against United.
"If I did, I'd expect United fans to give me the same amount
The Greater Manchester Police have written to the Football
Association to complain about the United skipper's antics.
A statement from GMP read: "Chief Superintendent Andy Holt
has written a letter expressing his concern. No criminal
investigation is taking place at this stage."
surprised at defeat
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez admits he was both surprised and
disappointed after watching his side fall to a 1-0 defeat at
The Liverpool chief saw his side play in a controlled manner
at Old Trafford but despite having had arguably the best of
the chances, fail to pick up any points.
Rio Ferdinand struck in the final minute with an excellent
header, leaving Benitez to rue what he feels was an unjust
scoreline when reflecting on the overall pattern of the
Benitez has now called for his side to put the defeat behind
them and concentrate on the battle to make ground on runaway
''It was a surprise but it was clear," Benitez told Sky
Sports. "We lost a game we were controlling, we have to
think about that.
''It was the last minute, so it was a disappointing day.
"It's always difficult to lose in the last minute. We know
we have two games in hand, we know it's a long way and we
have to keep going."
Ferdinand's goal came from a disputed Giggs free-kick when
referee Mike Riley ruled that Patrice Evra had been fouled
after a raid down the left flank, in a incident that did
appear to amuse Benitez.
"I do not want to talk about the decisions of the referee,"
said Benitez. "Sometimes I do not understand, so I prefer
not to talk about it.
''We have lost a game we were controlling in the last
minute, to a free-kick.
''That is not normal but we can't change it now."
late show sinks Reds
Rio Ferdinand's injury-time header completed a memorable
Manchester United hat-trick as Liverpool's unbeaten run
became the latest to bite the dust in a 1-0 defeat at Old
Just as Arsenal's 49-game streak without a defeat ended here
last season, and Chelsea's 40-match run was halted in
November, so Liverpool have found the Red Devils are not
quite the spent force many believe them to be.
Ferdinand took 140 games to end his United scoring drought
but the England defender found the net for the third time in
six weeks when he rose to meet Ryan Giggs' free-kick and
bulleted a header into the top corner past Jose Reina.
It hardly breathed new life into the Premiership title race
as Chelsea remain a healthy 14 points clear despite their
rare setback against Charlton, but at least it gave the
supporters something positive to remember from another
largely sterile encounter.
Up to that point, the game appeared likely to be memorable
only for Djibril Cisse's astonishing miss just after the
Ferdinand had just cleared off the line - another segment of
an overall exceptional performance from the £29.1million
defender - when Harry Kewell lashed a volley towards goal.
Edwin van der Sar did brilliantly to keep it out but could
only palm the ball straight into Cisse's path.
But somehow, despite being barely six yards out and
completely unmarked, Cisse thrashed his shot over, to the
total disbelief of manager Rafael Benitez.
The defeat, Liverpool's first since an October loss at
Fulham, leaves the Reds trailing United by four points -
with two games in hand - in what is surely now a race for
If the champions' draw with Charlton at Stamford Bridge was
supposed to elicit any kind of response from the bitter
north-west rivals, it seemed it was purely a sense of panic
that Jose Mourinho's men might be overhauled after all.
With Alan Smith's ankle injury failing to respond to
intensive treatment and Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and
Park Ji-Sung consigned to the stand for a variety of
reasons, it was no surprise United were outgunned in
John O'Shea and Giggs toiled manfully in central positions
but Xabi Alonso and Mohamed Sissoko held sway and Steven
Gerrard flitted in off his berth on the right touchline to
try to add some penetration.
Liverpool's problem was that no-one committed themselves far
enough forward to provide any meaningful support to Peter
Crouch and Cisse, both of whom were held at bay with some
degree of comfort by Ferdinand and Wes Brown.
These are the days when you wonder why anyone would question
Ferdinand. His speed of thought and foot kept him one step
ahead of the Liverpool attack, he maintained his
concentration throughout and even found time to ultimately
By his side, Brown was in equally determined mood and got
back well to block one Crouch volley which, other than a
couple of long-range Gerrard efforts, was about all
United were not much better. It was first-half stoppage time
before they created a decent opportunity, when Giggs chipped
a pass to the previously anonymous Ruud van Nistelrooy.
By the time the Dutchman got there, the angle was too narrow
to force anything other than a routine save from Reina.
If van Nistelrooy had been nowhere, Wayne Rooney was
everywhere - left-back, right-back, central midfield and
even up front sometimes.
The youngster appeared to be wearing turbo-charged boots so
quickly did he get up and down the field and one 50-yard
charge would have set up Darren Fletcher had it not been for
John Arne Riise's outstretched leg.
Sir Alex Ferguson was sufficiently concerned about the flow
of play to introduce Louis Saha at the interval, a move
which saw Rooney's role effectively reduced to that of a
Not that the decision kept Rooney out of the action. The
20-year-old still looked the most likely source of
inspiration for the hosts, although Liverpool did increase
their own tempo significantly in the second half.
Cisse had already partially tested van der Sar once before
the chance of the match fell his way just after the hour
The Frenchman was on his haunches and about to start nursing
a minor knock when van der Sar parried Kewell's drive into
his path but there were no excuses available to justify the
While the scare brought more focus to United's attack, the
hosts could not muster anything better than a whipped cross
from van Nistelrooy which fizzed across a crowded area
without touching anyone.
That was until Ferdinand struck. Once derided as the worst
finisher on United's books, the most expensive player in
British football history is quickly becoming a man to be