After The Match 


Man U-Liverpool 1-0 (0-0)          22.01.05                           PL
Goals: Ferdinand (90)
Team: Reina, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Finnan, Sissoko, Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell, Cisse, Crouch
Subs: Morientes (Crouch 60), Pongolle (Cisse 75),
Kromkamp (Sissoko 89)
Not used: Dudek, Traore
Yellow: Sissoko (18), Alonso (82), Gerrard (90)
Richardson (18), Rooney (87)
Red: None
Referee: M Riley
Attendance: 67,874
Shots on target: 4-3
Shots off target: 3-4
Possession: 43.6-56.4
Fouls conceded: 16-17
Corners: 1-2
Offsides: 3-2
Yellow: 2-3


HEADLINES "I think there's a line and Neville crossed it."
  Jamie Carragher

2401: We need a lethal weapon up front
2401: Neville: 'I didn't mean to upset Reds'
2401: How to avoid the heartache next time
2301: Benfica fancy Reds tie
2301: Carra: Neville went too far
2201: Rafa surprised at defeat
2201: Rio late show sinks Reds

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 their way.

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 recruitment list.

Neville: 'I 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 context.

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 exuberant celebration.

"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 win."

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 better team.

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 under Benitez.

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 level still.

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.

Benfica 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 Manchester United.

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 competition.

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 group stages.

"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 attack.

"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 teamwork.

"Gerrard is the star, the most important player," added Slot. "But the force of Liverpool is in the way they act as a unit."

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 of abuse."

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."

Rafa 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 Old Trafford.

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 game.

Benitez has now called for his side to put the defeat behind them and concentrate on the battle to make ground on runaway leaders Chelsea.

''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."

Rio 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 Trafford.

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 hour mark.

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 second spot.

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 midfield.

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 lethal effect.

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 Liverpool managed.

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 right winger.

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 mark.

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 awful miss.

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 feared.

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