United show why Americans
must listen to Benitez
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
There’s a culture existing in English
football which suggests chairmen and directors don’t know
what they’re doing.
It goes back decades. At least as far as 1956 when Len
Shackleton famously wrote his autobiography and included a
chapter headed: “The Average Director’s Knowledge of
Football.” A blank page followed.
It’s a culture the majority of modern administrators have
done little to dispel.
From Sam Longson, who famously drove Brian Clough out of
Derby, Ken Bates, Agent Johnson, Peter Ridsdale and the
muppets who run Tottenham, football chairmen have driven
supporters of their clubs to distraction.
From T.V. Williams to John Smith through to the admirably
supportive David Moores, they have boasted a succession of
chairmen who accepted their pockets were deeper than their
tactical knowledge, and backed the bosses they appointed.
It’s the atmosphere Tom Hicks and George Gillett have
stepped into, and they can immediately strike a blow for the
chairmen’s union by listening to their manager. So far, the
signs haven’t been good.
By refusing to sanction further spending before December 16,
they have pointed to a lack of understanding of their club’s
strengths and weaknesses.
Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher have valiantly held the fort
throughout Daniel Agger’s absence. But it would only have
taken a yellow card for Carragher at Reading, or an
overstretched hamstring for Hyypia in France, to leave
Liverpool looking defensively threadbare at yesterday’s
Happily for the Reds they both came through to produce
typically resilient displays yesterday.
But Rafa Benitez prides himself on the meticulousness of his
Solutions to problems are found in the small details. And in
the small detail yesterday United had the edge.
Benitez blamed luck for a defeat which was a photofit of
almost every Liverpool-United clash under his tenure. The
Reds controlled large chunks of the game, but United
produced the quality when it mattered.
Look at the triangle which yielded the game’s only goal.
Giggs to Rooney to Tevez. 1-0.
Liverpool could hit back with Gerrard to Torres, but then
the final high class piece of jigsaw is missing.
Dirk Kuyt was a £10m international class centre-forward.
Rooney, Anderson, Hargreaves each cost twice as much.
And Liverpool needed that gilding of class yesterday which
costs big, big bucks.
If Liverpool are bridling at paying £17m for Mascherano,
perhaps it should be pointed out that United substitute
Michael Carrick cost more than that.
In a match of such monumental tension, such frenzied
tackling, such frantic pressing, the side with the extra
class was always likelier to prevail.
Liverpool had looked that side for 40 minutes, a period when
John Arne Riise splendidly shackled Ronaldo, when Steven
Gerrard was dictating play until collecting a stupid booking
and when Edwin van der Sar was running around like an extra
in a Benny Hill chase sequence, bouncing into his own
But then Liverpool were just a fraction too slow in spotting
United’s well worked corner routine and the points had gone
begging . . . again.
Liverpool never looked as threatening in the second half,
United’s ability to counter with dazzling speed always
restricting the number of bodies the Reds could afford to
Ryan Babel made a difference when he came on, but the
talented but still inconsistent Dutchman is a top class
player in the making.
United have the finished products which is why they
prevailed once again.
Hopefully Tom and George will have listened to that argument
no doubt put forward by Rafael Benitez last night – and will
prove that there are football club chairmen who do know what
Final ingredient in title
recipe is still missing
By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
At least this one can’t be blamed on
rotation. Rafael Benitez stuck with the same 11, the side
that rose to the occasion so gloriously in Marseille five
days earlier and pretty much the strongest line-up he has
available at the moment.
So Anfield yesterday – at least before the manager met with
the owners – wasn’t a place for ‘what ifs’ or ‘why didn’t he
do this or that?’. No blame culture in the impending capital
Instead, harsh realities came to the fore, most notably the
one that Liverpool still aren’t ready to genuinely challenge
for the Premier League.
Okay, they are adhering to Benitez’s wishes to get closer –
yesterday’s defeat left them nine points adrift of their
opponents with a game in hand, while this time last year
they were 13 in arrears from the same number played.
But Manchester United are also following their manager’s
instructions to the letter, menacingly stalking Liverpool’s
record haul of 18 titles and becoming increasingly difficult
to shake off.
And once again yesterday, they showed what it takes to be
This was nowhere near as one-sided as last season’s
showdown, but Liverpool’s eventual defeat back in March made
little impact on their ambitions.
So yesterday is more galling in a way.
While not creating as much sustained pressure on this
occasion, the gap of 10 points to the leaders is proof of
the heavier price Liverpool are paying for the inability of
one of any of their own players to score against United in
the league during Benitez’s reign.
A statistic only made all the more alarming by the fact that
a visiting side looking some way short of their best form
gave them such a ruthless lesson in the importance of making
the most of opportunities.
Especially when you don’t create many.
As the hordes who made their way down the M62 yesterday
morning were only too quick to point out after Carlos Tevez
stabbed in a winner eerily similar to John O’Shea’s moment
of glory in front of the Kop nine months ago: ‘That’s why
we’re the champions’.
The fact that these two defeats are the only ones Liverpool
have suffered in the Premier League on their own turf in
well over two years is, of course, no consolation.
These are the games that really count, the indicators of
And with just two points taken from the three home clashes
against the rest of the so-called ‘big four’, coupled with
the fact that they are behind Manchester City and level on
points with Everton, Liverpool have made little in terms of
the quest for number 19.
As already pointed out, Benitez played pretty much his best
side but they just couldn’t find what Tevez did – a moment
to elevate themselves the mediocrity.
Just like last year, the opportunities were there, thanks
mainly to an eccentric Edwin van der Sar, who seemed hell
bent on punching out his own players rather than the ball.
But in front of him composure and confidence reigned, while
Owen Hargreaves’s performance in the holding midfield role
would have had Fabio Capello purring.
United simply knew exactly how to win this type of do-or-die
encounter and Liverpool didn’t.
Something which will gnaw away at Benitez even when his side
sweeps past lesser opponents as they have in the majority of
games he has been in charge.
Even when he masterminds remarkable European nights, a habit
he shows no sign of kicking if France last week is any
And even when he embarks on the next bout of squad
strengthening because, whatever happens in January, in
Fernando Torres he’s pretty much already got the best Tom
Hicks and George Gillett can afford him.
So if Benitez is as keen to smooth out his relationship with
that duo and secure his future at Anfield, the shortcomings
in trying to overthrow United’s – and for that matter
Arsenal’s current ascendancy is something he will just have
to live with, unless the second half of the season somehow
produces a dramatic shift in the Premier League’s balance of
And yesterday’s results emphatically prove which way that is
tilting at the moment.
Hyypia refuses to
throw towel in
Veteran Sami Hyypia has denied Liverpool
are now facing mission impossible in the title race
following Sunday's defeat by Manchester United.
The Reds started the campaign with high hopes of ending
their 17-year championship drought and despite some
inconsistent form on home soil were well placed to make
their move until 10 days ago.
Although Rafael Benitez's side have secured a financially
imperative place in the knock-out phase of the Champions
League, the outstanding four-goal win in Marseille has been
sandwiched by the loss of Liverpool's unbeaten Premier
League record at Reading and yet another defeat to United at
The latest loss against their fierce rivals - their fifth in
six seasons - has left the Merseyside giants nine points
behind United and 10 adrift of leaders Arsenal.
Admittedly, Liverpool do have a game in hand but, after
picking up just two points in three meetings with their
fellow 'Big Four' members this term, the evidence is not
pointing towards the end of that long wait for a 19th title.
Nevertheless, Hyypia is refusing to be downcast.
The Finland star is convinced Liverpool proved they were
And, while he accepts his team-mates have a lot to do in
order to haul themselves back into contention, Hyypia
believes they are up to the task.
"It is not the end of the world," he said. "Of course, if
you think about 10 points it is quite a lot but I don't
believe it is a major obstacle to clear and it is certainly
"It would have been an important game to win but we didn't
manage it, so we have to remained focused on each individual
game and see where we are in May."
For the second season running, Liverpool were undone by a
set piece, fatally failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the
edge of the area when Ryan Giggs took a corner and then
leaving Carlos Tevez on his own too as he turned home the
England striker's shot.
It is the kind of mistake that Benitez must eradicate if his
team are to stand a chance of getting themselves back into
the championship fight, although Hyypia feels there are
plenty of positives to draw from the defeat as well.
"Manchester United achieved what they came for; a clean
sheet and they also managed to sneak a goal," he said. "But
there were lots of positives for us too."
The worry for Liverpool fans is that while Arsenal, Chelsea
and, now, United have all been to Anfield, they are still to
play away from home against any of their major rivals.
Hyypia acknowledges it is imperative to inflict some damage
when the Merseysiders go on their travels and is optimistic
they can do just that.
"Our away form has been better than the home form so I am
confident we will get something out of those games away," he
"The matches against the other teams in the big four are
very important. We have to catch them and we know for sure
if we win those games our rivals cannot get any points."
Ironically, Liverpool face one of their major rivals on
Wednesday when they visit Chelsea looking to book a place in
the Carling Cup semi-finals.
The Reds have enjoyed plenty of success against the
Londoners in cup combat over recent times, including two
thrilling Champions League semi-final wins.
However, Hyypia accepts history will count for nothing at
"I don't want to look at the records at all," he said.
"Every game is different - we go there to win and do our
dawn for Rafa's Reds
By Graham Shaw - TEAMtalk
TEAMtalk's Graham Shaw feels Liverpool's
latest defeat to Manchester United shows exactly why they
will not challenge for the Premier League.
Want to know why Liverpool haven't won the title in 17
years? Sunday afternoon had the answer in a nutshell.
Once again any dreams of finally ending that long wait were
put into stark focus as they failed miserably on the big
Senor Rafa Benitez now has one solitary point from 21
against his team's most bitter rivals - reigning champions
Manchester United. He also has just four wins from 21
against United, Arsenal and Chelsea. The games that really
So any delusions of being ready to take what they perceive
to be their rightful place on the throne can only be seen as
flattery of the most deceptive kind.
In recent seasons Liverpool have been exposed as domestic
football's equivalent of flat-track bullies, plenty good
enough to crush inferior opposition but found wanting
against the big guns.
In days gone by you could just about win a title by beating
the rest, but now that just won't cut it.
In a Premier League where even one defeat can be
catastrophic the mini-league between the "top four" is often
now what decides who eventually takes the glory.
The infuriating thing for Tom, George and the Anfield
faithful is that the script on Sunday afternoon was so
predictable. Territorial advantage, domination in terms of
efforts on goal - and yet still another damaging defeat.
Rafa's decision to start with Harry Kewell and Dirk Kuyt
proved a disaster while Peter Crouch and Ryan Babel waited
impatiently in the wings.
After years of being ravaged by injury Kewell doesn't have
the pace or confidence to trouble a top-line defence. Babel
on the other hand does.
Kuyt, while industrious and willing, doesn't have the guile
or physical presence to cut it at the very top level.
Crouch, at least, has the latter.
By the time he did introduce the pair of them it was too
late, the writing was already on the wall.
Just as they did last March, Liverpool took their eye off
the ball for one second - one fatal second.
Then it was John O'Shea profiting, this time it was Carlos
Tevez. Déjà vu, groundhog day. It was all so strikingly
You can't deny that Benitez has bought some top players to
Anfield - nobody can deny the quality of the likes of
Fernando Torres or Javier Mascherano.
But despite the big-money buys, and the local backbone and
brilliance provided by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher,
there still appears to be an ingredient missing.
In some cases that can be provided by just one man - just
remember that Sir Alex Ferguson searched six long years for
the promised land before stumbling across one Eric Cantona.
Not many managers get that long these days to come up with
the goods, and the goods at Anfield right now is top spot in
Yes Benitez delivered the Champions League amid those
amazing scenes in Istanbul in the summer of 2005. But right
now that seems a distant memory.
There was a time when Liverpool fans expected title glory,
almost like a divine right. Now for some it must seem like
an impossible dream.
Manchester United waited 26 years to return to the summit -
Liverpool have now waited 17. The similarities are striking
- the sporadic brilliance, infuriating inconsistency and
ability to come up short when it really matters.
We deserved it
By Peter Fraser - Sky Sports
Manchester United manager Sir Alex
Ferguson believes his side have taken a massive step towards
retaining their Premier League title following a 1-0 win
over Liverpool at Anfield.
United notched the three points against their North West
rivals on Grand Slam Sunday courtesy of a poacher's finish
from Carlos Tevez on 43 minutes.
And Ferguson has acknowledged the importance of the win,
which takes United nine points clear of Liverpool, and
insists his side deserved the victory.
"It's a good result that's for sure," Ferguson told Sky
Sports 1. "It's a marvellous day for us. A good result and a
good team performance.
"We had to show a lot of discipline, but in terms of playing
football we were the better team.
"It was a typical United-Liverpool game. The crowd create
such a verve and flowing football is not an issue.
"It is about winning the game and certainly the moments when
we did play football in the first half we were the better
"I said before the game that the games between the top sides
were going to be important this year and that was an
important win for us."
The victory takes United to top spot in the Premier League,
but they could be overhauled if Arsenal defeat Chelsea in
Sunday's late kick-off, and Ferguson believes his side are
well on track for a title defence.
"At the moment we are top and we hope to stay there at the
end of the day, but it is going to be a long struggle and
fight through the season," Ferguson added.
"I've always said about December if we get to New Year's Day
and if we can be top or just about there then we have an
outstanding chance of retaining the title."
are not out of the title race
By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez refused to write off
Liverpool's title chances after the 1-0 defeat to Manchester
A first half goal from Carlos Tevez earned United the three
points and the victory took Sir Alex Ferguson's team nine
points ahead of the Reds in the Premier League.
"It's too soon to say we are out of the title race because
there is still a long way to go," claimed Benitez.
"It will be harder after this game but we have to keep going
and think about our next game."
Commenting on the 1-0 defeat, Benitez didn't feel there was
much between the two teams on the day.
"We didn't create that many chances and they didn't have
many opportunities either," added the Reds boss.
"In the first half we create two good chances but we didn't
take them, and they created one chance and scored. We made a
mistake for their goal but you need to take your chances. If
you do that you will be in a very good position."
United hold Liverpool at bay
For the second season running, a
close-range goal in front of the Kop proved enough to give
Manchester United victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
Whereas John O'Shea's goal in the corresponding fixture came
in stoppage time and spurred United on to the title, this
time the first half was nearing its end when Carlos Tevez
And while the Argentina forward's effort will not prove
decisive in the championship race at this early stage, it
has left United nine points in front of their fierce
north-west rivals, who, after suffering their first defeat
at Reading last week, have now lost their unbeaten home
It is not the ideal backdrop to Rafael Benitez's crunch
meeting with co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks,
although United, unbeaten in Premier League combat on this
ground for six years now, will not care much about that.
Twelve months ago, Liverpool did everything but beat United,
virtually battering their north-west rivals into submission
before O'Shea popped up in the final minute to snatch
victory. The home fans must have endured an uneasy feeling
of deja vu as they watched the opening period unfold.
What incisive football was played amid a frenzied atmosphere
was all theirs. The chances fell the way of the men in red
too. Unfortunately, the shots were either off target or
failed to beat a United defender stood on the line.
Liverpool's efforts were assisted by a rare faltering
performance from Edwin van der Sar, who twice had his
attempts to take what looked like routine catches hindered
by his own players.
On the first occasion, the veteran Dutchman ran into a crowd
of United defenders as he tried to collect a Steven Gerrard
free-kick that had been deflected high into the air. Harry
Kewell was on to the loose ball first but drove his volley
straight at Anderson, who was still marshalling a post.
Fernando Torres, a man Ferguson tried to buy from Atletico
Madrid on three separate occasions, should have finished off
the rebound but, from six yards, nodded disappointingly
Then, when Van der Sar came off worst in a collision with
Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand's back header seemed destined
to bounce into his own net until Patrice Evra raced back to
Torres was off-target with a couple of efforts, as was
Yet, for all the pressure, it was United who took the lead
two minutes before the break as the Liverpool defence fell
apart following a Ryan Giggs corner.
After failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the edge of the
area, Alvaro Arbeloa then remained rooted to the goalline as
Liverpool pushed up hoping for an offside as the ball fizzed
into the box.
Tevez was actually behind Pepe Reina as he scooped home his
eighth goal of the season but with Arbeloa behind him, it
did not matter and the Argentina forward wheeled away in
celebration, the ball hitting virtually the same spot O'Shea
had found in March.
For a very brief moment, it appeared Torres would level
within a minute of the re-start as the United defence opened
up in front of the Spain international. The ball seemed to
get stuck under his feet and before he could regain any
momentum, Torres had been robbed.
It was the prelude for more sustained Liverpool pressure,
which United countered by throwing their bodies in the way
of anything vaguely threatening.
Ferdinand and Vidic were immense figures at the heart of the
rearguard action, their efforts only made slightly easier by
Dirk Kuyt's poor performance. The Dutchman was totally
ineffective, his contribution paling in comparison to
Torres, even though he was not having one of his better
Crouch's introduction gave the Red Devils' overworked
defence another problem to counter and another substitute,
Ryan Babel, almost took advantage of the extra space when he
skimmed a shot agonisingly wide of Van der Sar's left post.
Babel injected more life into the Liverpool attack but it
was Rooney who would have saved the visiting fans an anxious
final 10 minutes if he had not turned Ronaldo's low cross
wide from eight yards.