After The Match 

            


Man U-Liverpool 2-0  (1-0)         22.10.06                           PL
Goals: Scholes (39), Ferdinand (65)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko, Gonzalez, Garcia, Kuyt
Subs:  Pennant (Gonzalez 52), Crouch (Alonso 70)
Not used: Dudek, Paletta, Warnock
Yellow: Sissoko (26), Finnan (76), Crouch (77)       Vidic (69)
Red: None
Referee: G Poll
Attendance: 75,828
TEAM STATS
Shots on target: 7-2
Shots off target: 2-9
Possession: 56.1-43.9
Fouls conceded: 14-22
Corners: 5-5
Offsides: 1-0
Yellow: 1-3
Red: 0-0
HEADLINES "...we couldn't create a lot
of clear chances..."
    Rafael Benitez

2310: Even the best get it wrong sometimes
2310: Benitez: New Reds must deliver
2310: Benitez must act to halt alarming fall from grace
2210: Rotating Reds flounder
2210: Rafa blames lapses
2210: Fergie praises players
2210: Red Devils rule over Liverpool
 


OCTOBER 23
Even the best get it wrong sometimes

By David Prentice, Chief Sports Writer - Liverpool Echo

Rafael Benitez will be unaware of the old
Scouse expression 'barley.'

But perhaps somebody should put him right.

Because for much of his Anfield reign the Liverpool manager has been barley.

That's untouchable, exempt from criticism and free from questioning.

Sure there have been some ludicrous attempts by the more hysterical tabloids to dress him up in glasses and a beret and call him Benni Hill, but diehard Reds have been loathe to point the finger.

Their loyalty is understandable. A famous Champions League triumph, an equally dramatic FA Cup success and the introduction of more expressive, free-flowing football to Anfield givesany manager a certain degree of licence.

But there are rumblings of discontent beginning to emerge.

And those gripes are justified. There are three fixtures Liverpool hate to lose more than any other.

And they have just lost all three in the space of six weeks.

Red apologists could claim the scoreline at Everton was harsh and the defeat at Chelsea unlucky and find plenty to agree with their arguments, but there was no escaping the fact Liverpool were second best in all areas of the pitch at Old Trafford yesterday.

And most disappointingly, Liverpool never looked like turning it around.

Defeat to Manchester United always leads to soul-searching and self analysis - and Rafael Benitez has some searching questions to answer right now.

Most important would appear to be the most straightforward.

What exactly is Liverpool's best starting line-up?

It should be a simple enough answer. But such has been the extent of Liverpool's constantly shuffling team selections that it is difficult now to gauge when one player has been 'rested' or another axed.

Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all rotate their squads to some degree, but all have reassuring constants.

Drogba and Shevchenko are Chelsea's first choice front two, while Frank Lampard is an omni-present central midfielder.

United fans can claim with some certainty that Saha and Rooney will form their forward line, with Ronaldo and Giggs on either flank, while Thierry Henry is always a first choice Gunner.

Which is Liverpool's first choice forward line? Perm any two from three - or one as it was yesterday.

What's the best midfield partnership? Your guess is as good as mine.

And the ever-present Steve Finnan apart, what's the best back four line-up?

No-one, not even the manager, appears to have the answers.

Other questions are more complex. Why was Liverpool's top scorer left on the substitutes' bench - again. Surely such a tactic erodes the motivation of players.

What's the point of excelling in a match if your reward is to be 'rested'?

Why was the best central midfielder in the Premiership left on the periphery of the action - again - isolated wide on the right of a five man midfield?

And why was Jermaine Pennant, as out and out a right-winger as you'll find, introduced on the left of midfield?

It's square pegs in round holes time, with predictable consequences.

Manchester United were comfortable victors yesterday.

There's no shame in losing to the current Premier League leaders, but there is when you fail to muster more than a solitary on-target effort all afternoon.

Liverpool set out at containment, but were undone when their central defence fell asleep seven minutes before half-time.

Sami Hyypia has creaked at times this season and the admirable Jamie Carragher is finding that even supermen cannot play to the best of their ability with painful injuries.

United took ruthless advantage, to underline the worrying statistic that Watford currently have a better away record than Liverpool.

Rafael Benitez's tactical acumen is unquestioned.

He is rightly regarded as one of Europe's most talented tacticians and coaches.

But just sometimes he gets things wrong - and Reds fans are hoping he can get things right again quickly.


OCTOBER 23
Benitez: New Reds must deliver

By Paul Walker - PA Sport

Rafael Benitez believes Liverpool have to start proving his expensively-assembled squad is better than last
season's outfit.


The Anfield chief witnessed yet another deflating defeat at Old Trafford yesterday, with Manchester United emerging comfortable 2-0 victors to return to the top of the Barclays Premiership, 11 point clear of Benitez's troops.

It is a sobering time for the Spaniard, who consistently claims his summer buys - added to last season's side that finished third - have improved Liverpool's squad.

But he said: "I believe - I know - we are a better squad than last season. But we have to prove that.

"The way to change things in your life is to work harder and better. We must think about Reading in the Carling Cup and then (Aston) Villa. If I think every day, all week, about what went wrong, what half chances we missed we would not change anything.

"We must focus on improving, getting better at what we do - and the things we are not doing well.

"Last season, we were much better away from home, and we have a situation now when we are looking at the same defenders and the same midfielders who were in that position last season.

"The difference is scoring first - everything changes in a game when that happens."

And Benitez argued the solution is not necessarily returning skipper Steven Gerrard to the centre of midfield.

He said: "Stevie has played in the middle sometimes, but if you have Momo (Sissoko) and Xabi (Alonso) doing well in the middle and Stevie scoring goals like he did last season, then you will do well.

"The team today was the one we needed because we had enough quality to win the match. I don't think there was a lack of confidence - the first half hour we were fine.

"But the first goal gave them control. Manchester United are a very good team in such circumstances.

"That first goal was hard to stop, our players had worked very hard to contain United, but one slip and a difficult low cross comes in which is very hard to stop.

"I don't want to blame individuals, they were doing the things we had talked about. The second half was about passion and quality and we know United have both."

He added: "This is still a very, very long race. I cannot say whether we can make up 11 points, yes or no. But we can only look to the next one and to make sure we improve and get the points that will make the situation easier to manage."

Benitez admitted the defeat at Old Trafford was one of his most frustrating as Liverpool manager.

He said: "It is clearly one of my most disappointing days as manager of the club.

"It is a game I know everybody at the club and the supporters wants us to win, particularly at Old Trafford.

"I felt we started the game well but we didn't create enough. We had some chances and good possession, but we could not create clear openings. Things were okay until we conceded the first goal.

"That changed the game for both sides. We needed to go forward, the game was more open and, with their quality, it became more difficult for us."

Benitez has yet to register a league victory over United, and his side have failed to scored against Sir Alex Ferguson's men for 396 minutes of Premiership action.


OCTOBER 23
Benitez must act to halt
alarming fall from grace


By Alan Hansen - Daily Telegraph

Eleven points off the pace and with the big three slipping ever further away, it looks all over as early as October for Liverpool's pursuit of the Premiership. And when you think that the season began with many tipping them to run Chelsea closest, that is a truly sobering thought.

They may yet produce the kind of unbeaten run that they put together towards the end of last season but those kinds of statistics are a long way from the reality Liverpool face now. After five away games in which they have gained one point and scored one goal, they look badly in need of a strategy.

If you want to consider yourself one of the country's top clubs, you cannot continue to keep looking to a single player for inspiration. However great a footballer Steven Gerrard is, that is too much pressure to heap on one man's shoulders, especially when he is not performing well.

I have always maintained that Gerrard's best position is in the centre of midfield, driving forward; but he can play wide on the right, he can play as a holding midfielder or as a right back. He would probably play in goal if you asked him to. But for one man to shoulder so much responsibility for the way a club of Liverpool's size perform is impossible.

Analysing Liverpool, you see problems throughout the side and it is up to Rafa Benitez to sort them out. The manager is the man who took the plaudits when Liverpool won the Champions League and the FA Cup and it is up to him to take decisive action when things are not going well.

advertisementThere is plenty for him to consider. His goalkeeper, Jose Reina, produced one world-class save from Louis Saha but recently he has made many errors of judgement and he seems very uncertain when coming off his line.

There are serious problems with the back four. My views on Liverpool's rotation policy are very clear: the time to rotate players is generally when you are winning, but the one area you should be very wary of rotating is your defence.

The game may have changed since I played it, but what is still true is that the centre-backs do less running and more talking to each other than any other players on the pitch. It is an absolutely crucial area that depends on understanding and reading your partner's game. As a manager, you would be looking to play the same back four 20 times on the trot, not split them up.

Up front, Liverpool's weaknesses were glaring. At Old Trafford yesterday, they created one chance Dirk Kuyt's header and they passed the ball so poorly that you never expected another. You can talk about lack of pace or lack of height or lack of anything in Liverpool's attack but not since Michael Owen have they had a player capable of scoring 20 Premiership goals in a season. At Old Trafford there was no passing, no cohesion and no threat.

Whereas Chelsea and Manchester United spend 30 million on a player and even Arsenal can and do pay big money, Liverpool spend between 4 million and 9 million on transfers. That gets you 'maybe' players, footballers who could do a job but who would be dangerous to rely on in a crisis.

The fact that there is talk of new investment in the club from Dubai is welcome, but it is irrelevant to what is happening on the pitch now. When Old Trafford holds 75,000 and Anfield can accommodate 44,000, it is obvious that Liverpool are operating under a huge disadvantage. David Moores has been a great chairman of Liverpool and if he feels the need to sell the club, he should be supported and I would back him if he decides to stay.

However, there are factors other than finance that separate Manchester United and Liverpool. Yesterday so much of United's play revolved around Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, men who are immersed in the club. Their enthusiasm for football and for Manchester United has not diminished more than a dozen years after they made their debuts at Old Trafford. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United each have sides who you can see going on 14-match unbeaten runs.

Liverpool, in contrast, would struggle to get through three unbeaten games in their present form and seem to have slipped back to the pattern of Benitez's first season, when Liverpool were excellent in Europe but could not win away from Anfield in the Premiership. Back then they looked too fragile, while now their away record suggests they are not good enough.

Benitez might argue that Liverpool are nearly there, especially when at Anfield, but in the context of what they need to achieve in the Premiership, nearly could mean a million miles.


OCTOBER 22
Rotating Reds flounder

By Rich Middleton - LFC Online

The match was dubbed as the Red's final chance to mount a challenge on the Premiership title, but now eleven points behind the league leaders, Liverpool look lost and bewildered.

But the hype prior to kick off had seemingly affected the players, with a feisty first twenty minutes. The Reds appeared bright and lively, with crisp, accurate passing and intelligent, even complex, movement up front.

But an insipid second half lacking in belief, organisation and creativity clouded any positive memories. Statistics can often belie truth, but with a total tally of two shots on target and a quarter of all passes going astray, the Reds would have been lucky to have scraped an undeserving point.

Uncharacteristic mistakes from Jamie Carragher cost Liverpool, initially allowing Paul Scholes the freedom of the six yard box - and a simple tap in - to give United the impetus. A sliced clearance mid way through the second half from the Liverpool talisman then allowed Rio Ferdinand his chance, which he duly controlled and finished, cleverly turning John Arme Riise and firing home from close range.

But it was the lack of chances which must concern Reds boss, Rafa Benitez. Liverpool required a Steven Gerrard wonder strike, but when this failed to materialise, there seemed little left in reserve. And with media attention focusing on Benitez's rotational approach, today's performance seemed to epitomise the downfalls of playing with such an inconsistent team.

Stray passes, mis-commmunication between players, and an underlying inability to create any meaningful chances were the only conclusions to draw from a second half which was, at times, painful to watch. The initial optimism from the first twenty minutes was replaced with misplaced pass after misplaced pass, with the Reds unable to find team mates and incapable of keeping possession for a sustained period.

And the dreary Manchester weather reflected the Reds performance on the pitch. Grey skies hung over a team who seem to need a burst of confidence, perhaps an injection of faith. But with each player fighting against a system which inherently rejects such an approach to the game, Reds will be wondering where the side will go from here.


OCTOBER 22
Rafa blames lapses

By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes a lack of concentration at vital moments cost his side against Manchester United.

Paul Scholes took advantage of some poor defending to steal in for the opening goal and a result was beyond Liverpool when Rio Ferdinand netted a superb second.

Benitez was happy with the overall performance of his side at Old Trafford but says mistakes cost them the chance of taking something from the game.

"In the first half we didn't have a lot of problems and then we conceded a goal. Against a good team like United that is always a big problem," Benitez told Sky Sports.

"When you see the players working as hard as they work, you cannot blame them, if you make a mistake, you make a mistake.

"From my point of view it is a pity when you concede."

Benitez was disappointed with the lack of clear-cut chances his side created on the day.

"We were defending well but we couldn't create a lot of clear chances, if you want to win you need to score," he continued.

Meanwhile, Benitez refused to rule out his sides chances of still challenging for the title.

The Reds are now 11 points behind United at the top, but Benitez is not looking any further ahead than their next league outing against Reading.

He added: "In football you never know. I need to think about the next game. When you are at the top, bottom or middle of the table you need to think about the next three points.

"If you want to have possibilities (of being in the title race) you need to start winning games."


OCTOBER 22
Fergie praises players

By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted to see his side claim maximum points from rivals Liverpool at
Old Trafford.


Goals from Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand secured a 2-0 success for The Red Devils against a Liverpool side that continue to struggle away from home.

Ferguson was pleased to see his side not falter again after going down to Arsenal in the battle of the big boys at Old Trafford last month.

"Well we're pleased, after losing the game to Arsenal, you can't afford to lose a big one again so the players responded to that," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

"I thought the performance was excellent."

Ferguson was particularly happy for Scholes, who netted on his 500th appearance for the club.

The midfielder has spent his entire career at Old Trafford and Ferguson feels it is fitting he scored the goal against United's great rivals.

"I thought about that before the game but you don't want to tempt things but I was so pleased for him, he deserves it," he said.

"His 500th game for the club and he scores against our biggest rivals, so it was a really great moment."

With the win, United regained top spot in The Premiership from Chelsea and Ferguson believes consistency is the key to their excellent start this season.

He added: "I think it's consistency. Were doing very well considering we don't have our most recognised team yet.

"We've got some players still to get back in the squad and get some football behind them.

"I think the belief's there, I think there's a growing belief. We started the season with hope and desire with the intention to do well and so far they've not let us down.

"But there's a great confidence also and as everyone says, winning gives you confidence but also I think there's some young players that are starting to develop well as well."


OCTOBER 22
Red Devils rule over Liverpool

By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports

Paul Scholes marked his 500th appearance for the club with a goal as Manchester United ran out 2-0 winners over Liverpool in front of a record Premiership crowd at Old Trafford.

Scholes put United ahead on 39 minutes as he poked Ryan Giggs' ball across the face of goal home at the second attempt.

United were dominant for much of the game, with Liverpool very rarely troubling Edwin Van der Sar, and Rio Ferdinand scored a superb second mid-way through the second half.

The England defender took advantage of a poor Jamie Carragher clearance to fire a first-time shot into the top corner from 12 yards and give Sir Alex Ferguson's men a lead they did not relinquish.

The game lived up to its billing right from the off, with both sides allowing for a lively and open affair and chances aplenty at both ends.

John Arne Riise tried to catch out Van der Sar early with a Xabi Alonso-type effort from just inside the Manchester United half, but the ball sailed comfortably over the Dutchman's crossbar.

United were soon into their stride and the Liverpool fans will have had their hearts in their mouths inside 10 minutes as a poor decision from Jose Reina almost let the hosts in for the opener.

Darren Fletcher beat Reina to a loose ball on the right wing but fortunately for the Spanish keeper, The Reds had enough defenders back to bail him out.

Giggs was causing umpteen problems for the Liverpool defence with his delivery from set pieces but the United attackers could not take advantage.

Liverpool's defence was struggling to cope with set pieces and Reina had to be quick to get down to Louis Saha's snap-shot from the corner of the six yard box.

The Frenchman was again denied by Reina soon after as his ferocious attempt from 20 yards was kept out by the Liverpool keeper.

Wayne Rooney had a sniff of goal on two occasions just after the half hour mark as first he mis-controlled Michael Carrick's brilliant ball over the top, before being beaten to the ball by Reina after Saha's mis-timed header looked to have put him in.

In between Rooney's two openings, Liverpool created their best chance of the half and Dirk Kuyt should have done better than head straight at Van der Sar when Mark Gonzalez's perfect centre found the Dutch striker at the back post.

Gonzalez then spurned no less than three opportunities to give Liverpool the lead in the final ten minutes of the half as he saw a shot blocked on the break and twice shot wide from good positions.

Liverpool were certainly enjoying their best spell of the half but United made them pay for not taking their chances as Scholes popped up to send the home fans into raptures.

Rooney played in Giggs down the left and his first-time ball cross the six-yard box found an unmarked Scholes who poked home at the second attempt after Reina had saved the midfielder's initial effort well at his feet.

Saha was superbly denied United's second minutes later when his 25-yard shot looked like finding the bottom corner until Reina tipped the ball around the post.

Alonso went close in stoppage time with a shot from the edge of the area but United were full value for their lead going in at the break.

United started the second 45 in a similar manner to the way they ended the first half, with Saha and Scholes both shooting wide from the edge of the area.

Liverpool were continuing to struggle to trouble Van der Sar, with Luis Garcia's tame header from Steven Gerrard's dinked ball over the top the best they could muster in the early stages of the second half.

United, meanwhile, continued to bear down on Reina's goal and Saha saw a shot blocked before Ferdinand's magical strike double the hosts' advantage.

Carragher had earlier taken a knock to his ankle and his poor clearance went straight up in the air in the Liverpool penalty area. Ferdinand took the ball down exquisitely before sending a first-time shot with his left foot into the top left-hand corner of Reina's net for his first goal of the season.

United slowed the tempo after the second but Giggs was clearly keen to get himself on the score sheet as he rolled back the years with a dazzling run from the left, but the veteran winger could not find the finish the run deserved.

Gerrard headed over and fired wide late on but the Reds' day was summed up when Luis Garcia sent a disappointing effort high and wide in the final embers of the match.

Liverpool's chances of challenging in The Premiership have taken a further dent with the result as they now find themselves 11 points behind United, who go back above Chelsea on goal difference.


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Thor Zakariassen