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Berbatov exposes Liverpool decline

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Phil McNulty | 07:54 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

The sight of Dimitar Berbatov in acrobatic goalscoring action graced the front of Manchester United's match programme complete with a message - some might even say a warning - from Sir Alex Ferguson.

"Off to a flier, Dimitar Berbatov has been unstoppable. More of the same is required today," wrote Ferguson ahead of the meeting with Liverpool, the game the Scot calls "the daddy of the derbies".

Berbatov did not just deliver more of the same, he did something Ferguson arguably relishes even more. He scored a brilliant hat-trick to give his manager the domestic victory he cherishes above all others - and the opportunity to indulge in a familiar pastime of Liverpool baiting.

Ferguson did not waste the opportunity to emphasise United's supremacy against a Liverpool side in the throes of what may be a painful transition under Roy Hodgson.

Ferguson was in full cry as he claimed Liverpool "didn't offer anything" (almost true) and "depended on decisions from the linesman to get back in the game" (not true at all).

Fernando Torres was also in the line of Ferguson's verbal fire for having the sheer audacity to be fouled by John O'Shea, while United's boss also suggested Liverpool's loss amounted to a "catastrophe". Not quite.

It was trademark knockabout stuff from the Scot, perhaps fuelled by relief as much as elation after Berbatov's late winner rescued what threatened to be another great Manchester United giveaway.

Liverpool and their supporters have certainly had better days than this. If waking up to the thought of Tom Hicks not only retaining his Anfield power base but expanding it was hard enough to stomach, the sound of the Laird of Old Trafford belittling them will have only added to the agony.

Ferguson, to some extent, had a point. The scoreline was the only thing that was close about this game as Liverpool were too average for too long in the face of United's greater attacking options.

berbatov595ap.jpgBerbatov has struggled to make his mark at United following his £30m move from Spurs. Photo: AP

Berbatov's two goals either side of the interval - the second an overhead kick that was a triumph of technique and natural talent - put United in control until Steven Gerrard struck twice in six minutes to leave Liverpool in sight of a point they never deserved.

Gerrard's penalty and free-kick underlined the defensive weakness that still threatens to undermine United's season. Ferguson bristles at the suggestion that United have a frailty in this department, preferring to describe it as "lapses in concentration". Frailty it is and frailty it continues to be, no matter how he dresses it up.

Berbatov's towering header six minutes from time restored reality and gave United a 3-2 win - a final score that does little to reflect their overall superiority.

When Berbatov left the action with two minutes to go at the end of his masterclass, he was greeted by a thunderous Old Trafford standing ovation and a high-five from Ferguson. It was the successful conclusion to a two-year journey to acceptance at Old Trafford.

Often derided as lacking passion - an Eric Cantona-lite - Berbatov has cast off the shackles to become the player Ferguson thought he was paying £30m for when he arrived from Tottenham.

As at Everton last Saturday, Berbatov's entire performance was stamped through with world-class as he was too much for Liverpool to handle. He ignored the feeble attentions of Torres to head his first, juggled a Nani cross before bicycle-kicking his second then soared high above Jamie Carragher to complete his treble. A virtuoso display from a striker who has rediscovered his art.

So often lurking in the shadows when paired with Wayne Rooney, the languid Berbatov is now centre stage and the number nine shirt is finally a comfortable fit. No longer is he the player Ferguson was reluctant to turn to when the big occasions came along.

The narrow margin of United's victory - and their brief period of parity - appeared to give the Liverpool camp an artificial glow of satisfaction. A point would have been welcomed but the truth is it would only have papered over the cracks Hodgson is trying to repair.

Liverpool cannot kid themselves that they were almost United's equal. They lacked ambition for huge portions of this game, relying once again on the heroic Gerrard to act as inspiration, goalscorer, leader and just about everything else. Fortunately for Hodgson, it is a role the captain is used to and accomplished at performing.

The body language of the whole Liverpool side screamed from the first moment "what we have we hold" - the problem being they were not good enough to hold on to it. Too negative. No boldness until their hand was forced by United's lead.

Hodgson is at the start of a lengthy renewal. He needs and deserves time - and perhaps more importantly money - and is wise enough not to become a hostage to wild predictions about Liverpool being able to win the league, or, even more damningly, that they cannot win the league.

He will not say it publicly, and rightly so, but his chief objective is to restore Liverpool to the Champions League, with maybe the odd cup triumph as an added bonus. Early evidence suggests he has a formidable task achieving the any of those goals.

Liverpool's failure to deal with crosses from the flanks proved fatal against United, while the defensive partnership of Carragher and Martin Skrtel also looked vulnerable. Daniel Agger may need to be restored.

Raul Meireles and Christian Poulsen have barely got their feet under the table and were peripheral figures at Old Trafford. Poulsen's conservative passing, too often sideways, personified Liverpool's over-cautious approach.

Little of note came from the flanks, where Joe Cole was subdued and Maxi Rodriguez made himself scarce in a manner "The Invisible Man" would have envied.

torresreuters300.jpg

Then we come to Torres, the striker who has almost become a national debating point.

He was light years away from the striker who reduced Nemanja Vidic to an ill-disciplined wreck when Liverpool won 4-1 at Old Trafford in March 2009. Vidic was the winner here, while Torres cut an isolated figure.

And yet Torres, even in his current reduced circumstances, invited the fouls from Jonny Evans and O'Shea that led to Liverpool's two goals. Such is the respect he commands from opponents.

Much has been said about Torres in the last seven days, the most damning being that he does not care and is not focused on Liverpool. Nonsense - to suggest any professional is lacking interest is a dangerous charge and certainly does not apply here.

The reasons for his off-colour displays may be far simpler. He is being starved of quality servicefor a start and there also appears to be an issue of mind and body. If Torres gives off one clear signal at present, it is that he does not quite trust his fitness after his recent injury problems.

What a contrast from that stunning Liverpool win at Old Trafford, when Torres took the plaudits and Berbatov emerged as a late substitute only to see the side led by Rafael Benitez humiliate United.

Here, it was Berbatov who took the honours. Ferguson ordered him to be unstoppable - and unstoppable he was.

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Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Liverpool played like Hodgson teams always have. Cautious, hoping for a mistake, defending the 6 yard line. For all the problems at the club, Hodgson should do better with what he's got. A decent manager would have sent out a team with more fight than Hodgson did. Hodgson is a mid table manager which is what Liverpool have been turning into for the last 12 months. Poulson and Konchelsky sum up where the club is at the moment. Poulson's not even in Lucas's class, and konchelsky is the worst left back to play for Liverpool since Julian Dicks. United were embarassingly better. While their defence is a weak link, what about Jamie Carragher yesterday.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article, there is nothing wrong with torres, dire service is the main problem, as well as having no pre season, and still working his way back from a catalogue of injuries.

    Fergie is a joke calling torres a cheat, especially with Nani in his team.

    Gerrard was excellent, aside from the goals, he fought well, and showed huge passion and commitment, summed up by his celebration.

  • Comment number 3.

    You don't need Berbatov to show Liverpool's serious decline - that's been happening on and off the pitch for a few seasons now.

    Just the same as Alex Ferguson didn't 'knock Liverpool off their perch', as he claims, Graeme Souness did.

    Liverpool's problems are all of their own making.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good game, Berbatov is now playing like a £30 million signing. Why does Phil only seem to write about Man Utd or Rooney? I wonder

  • Comment number 5.

    Heroic Gerrard? He scored a penalty and a poorly hit free kick which was lucky to go in! Apart from that he was anonyomous.
    Most over rated player in PL.

    Think Liverpool will have a good season this year, prob make the top 10.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am admant another Ref could have Booked Torres for obstruction and diving. However, paper over the cracks, is what this victory has done for United. Liverpool had 2 shots in the whole game and scored both. Both set pieces. Both blamed on defenders of United. Two out of two is a good record for anyone, but Liverpool did nothing else. United in contrast played like they could have had 10 Nani should have had one, and Rooney looks about as good as Torres these days. Too much being read into this for United, and not enough for Liverpool. They are terrible. Oh and Ditmar Berbatov? Welcome to Old Trafford son!

  • Comment number 7.

    Ferguson was in full cry as he claimed Liverpool "didn't offer anything" (almost true) .... totally true acutally.


    and "depended on decisions from the linesman to get back in the game" (not true at all). .... true, but only to the extent it is in every game. There seems to be a different interpretation to fouls inside the penalty area than to those outside. Carragher for instance was holding, pushing and pulling players the whole match, (not the only culprit, but certainly the most prolific), this was inside the penalty box and so of course ignored by the officials whereas O'Shea tugged Torres just outside the box and of course cenceded a free kick. It's these double standards that so infuriate supporters.

  • Comment number 8.

    What a poor game by English footballs best two clubs!

    It's scary that Liverpool have gone over 20 years for a league title, like united in the 90's.

    This just shows the power of money in our national game. Teams like city and Chelsea CSM become something from nothing with a fee quid while great clubs like ours slip backwards!

  • Comment number 9.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think that whatever the situation or the reasons every manager should be given a couple of seasons to get it right. The key thing about ManU and Chelsea is that they are both teams. Yes, they have stars, but first and foremost they are teams. In a good team the players can find each other without having to think or look (bit of an overstatement) and that takes time. You can make a good pass to Rooney or Drogba because you think like them such things don't happen overnight. If you buy in players you need time to tune in.

    Rafa changed his teams so often that this fine tuning never happened.

  • Comment number 11.

    Good blog Phil...

    The one crack that hasn't been highlighted and really started last year is the sharp decline of Jamie Carragher! He's well past his sell-by date.

    He's lost his sharpness and his reaction speed is far too slow now which has led to him making poor, poor decisions. This has been going on for too long and I thought Hodgeson would be man enough to take him out and bring in Agger so that him and Skertal cold start a Hyypia/Henchoz relationship... but he hasn't.

    There are many weak links in the Liverpool side, but this is the weakest and not Torress as some people think it is - totally agree with collie21 - he's not any worse than Rooney!

    The front men will gel soon enough (Cole, Merelies, Torres and Gerrard), but it's the back-line that needs urgent attention!

  • Comment number 12.

    9. At 08:48am on 20 Sep 2010, Shanklyroad wrote:
    ------------------------------------------------------
    You're having a laugh! Let me guess you must one of the blokes who thought Benetez was good for the Pool. Liverpool were so bad yesterday they made United who couldn't hold off Everton or Fulham, look amazingly good. United are not actually that good and yes on another day could have had 5 or 6 in the first half alone. Wake up and smell the coffee... to use your writers analysis, if the Patient that is Liverpool checks himself out of hospital, he will collapse on the front steps.

  • Comment number 13.

    You take too many opinions off of BBC's MOTD and such, Phil "no matter how you dress it up"! Nothing new here...

    - Torres is sub-average right now. There was just one moment of his 'genious'. Nothing Else. Wrong there!

    - What about numerous calls that were not given to United in the box?! And then people say teams are not given penalties at Old Trafford! Howard was just trying to compensate for his 'earlier' decisions - absolutely ridiculous. Fergie is right. You're wrong!

    - Pool are sub-ordinary. That's the truth. Roy is the most gracious manager but he's not a top-tier manager. He cannot save Pool this season.

    - This game had 6-0 written all over it - Howard and his assistants helped change it - only Pool fans, including yourself, believe otherwise.

    End of the day it's 3 points for us and Liverpool are 16th!

  • Comment number 14.

    Fair comments Phil, very informed and accurate. I feel the scoreline flattered Liverpool as United dominated the game bar a 10 minute wobbly spell in the second half.
    Berbatov was superb and the second goal was Dennis Law like, Nani was threatening on the wing and Vidic was superb in handling the dangerous Torres. However, in the ten minute spell, the defence looked shaky (bar Vidic) and the midfield non-existent with Fletcher intent on getting caught and giving the ball away.
    The dissapointing thing to note, is all I have heard from Liverpool fans from friends and various phone ins is that O'Shea should have been sent off. There was no goalscoring opportunity so the ref got it spot on with a foul and a yellow card, which has been acknowledged by "neutral" pundits on BBC and Sky. Even Dermott Gallagher said it was the correct decision. I would like to add that Webb was superb throughout the game and showed why he is the best ref in England.
    All in all the better team won without any help from the referee. United will still be fighting for honours whilst Liverpool will do well to get in the top four.

  • Comment number 15.

    Don't think that too may Liverpool fans would have been expecting too much from this game. Upcoming games against Sunderland & Blackpool are likely to tell us more about what kind of season they're going to have.

    Whatever Fergie says, our defence looks powder-puff right now. Evans seems to have gone backwards and O'Shea has never been much more than a useful squad player/substitute. If Wes Brown can maintain some level of fitness then he's surely got to be a better bet at full-back. In addition, Rio needs to be restored and the promising Smalling developed.

    Delighted for Berbatov, but he should enjoy his moment in the sun whilst he can. There's still a sizeable constituency of United fans who confuse skill with effort and think we'd be better off with 10 Darren Fletchers running round like headless chickens and some of them were still moaning after the game yesterday about Berbatov's 'lack of effort'.

    After the clueless CL performance against Rangers you'd imagine that even this lot would appreciate that flair players like Nani and Berbatov, frustrating though they can sometimes be, are often the key to unpicking massed defences. On top of that, Fergie is still skating on thin ice in terms of how much he is relying on the ageing legs of Paul Scholes.

    It looks like we're going to be eating Chelsea's dust for the forseeable future, so can't afford any more slip-ups. Instead of splashing out on unknown Portuguese strikers like Bebe in the summer, Fergie should have brought in a midfield playmaker to help out Scholes. It's not just Hodgson who's papering over cracks right now.

  • Comment number 16.

    We need Liverpool FC as a serious competitor in the Premier League,we don't need or want their owners who have clearly shown they are not interested in the club,just the income it generates for them. For what it's worth,that's my opinion but not my problem. Sir Alex's acerbic comments might just goad/spark a much needed and long-overdue overhaul of Liverpool FC,top to bottom.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yes, United played very well and Liverpool under performed but dont forget that a below par Liverpool side still put two goals past a poor United defense. I dont have many complaints re the match except that Konchesky still needs more matches under his belt to gel with the team. He looked lost sometimes playing alongside the likes of Agger, Skrtel and left flank players. Another gripe is Hodgsons substitutions which doesnt make much sense. Overall, Torres needs to be supported and supplied with balls and unless that happens, we will struggle.

  • Comment number 18.

    Phil, it looks like you have been drawn in to Fergies 'sensationalist' comments which were an obvious smokescreen to the defensive woes at Old Trafford at the moment.
    Sure we were poor and should have offered more of an attacking threat than we did, but the fact remains that we still managed to net 2 goals and almost cscrape a draw when we had no right to be in the game at that stage.
    The table tells the story of how these two teams are performing, Liverpool don't need Fergies' pantomime to tell us that.

  • Comment number 19.

    It's funny how the press are swarming to defend Torres with regards to "no service, too many injuries, can't do it on his own" - compare and contrast their treatment of Rooney since May

    Anything but a United win would have been an absolute travesty.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think perhaps people need to learn our level now. We are competing with Spurs and City, I don't think we would have this analysis if that was Spurs there Yesterday, people would be talking about how, despite United showing more quality, Spurs dug in and gave them a right scare at the end of the day, and there was a lot to build on. There is not reason why the same cannot be said about our performance yesterday.

    We have had an awful fixture list so far, 2 of the now "Big 3", away to the richest team in the league and away to a team who haven't lost at home for a year. The only game I was very confident of winning was the game we did win against West Brom. If I honestly predicted the results of all of those games I would have ended up here. That means we haven't pulled up any trees and made great statements of intent, but it also means this is by no means a disaster yet.

  • Comment number 21.

    Good article but Fergie did not directly say that Liverpool's defeat was a catastrophe. In his post match interview he said that defeat for Man United or Liverpool in these sort of games is regarded as a catastrophe such is the importance the fans and media place on it. Clearly he himself does not see it that way. Howerver, Liverpool are alrealy 10 points off leaders Chelsea and obviously out of the title race.

  • Comment number 22.

    I honestly don't think united were that good... we were just very poor in certain areas especially, (if not only) on the left. Nani had such an easy day and Konchesky keeps reducing my opinion of Roy Hodgson by the game... The truly invisible Maxi was also not helping... neither attacking nor helping out with defending... Why Roy didn't bring on Babel, only he would know.

    As for Torres, he definitely wasn't bad at all... all the times he got any service, he did ok... even on his own in the first half he held up the ball against three tackles but still no one was backing him up...

    Poulsen definitely has no idea how mobile you have to be to be effective in the EPL... i'm thinking Roy should give Spearing a chance...

  • Comment number 23.

    Collie21, admittedly I accept that I am an overly patient Liverpool fan and yes I did actually used to support Benitez, even at the end.

    I felt that in the second half we produced some decent possession play and i'm optomistic about the potential of Meireles who showed some good touches. I liked that fact that Lucas didn't play but fully understand that there's a long way to go.

    I also accept that Man U deserved to win but i'm not looking at the Liverpool performance as negatively as many are. Looking forward to a couple of home games against winnable opposition then hopefully seeing key players regain some form (Torres & Cole in particular) and for us to put a good run together.

  • Comment number 24.

    As a neutral (Raith Rovers fan) a few things stuck out for me:

    1. Carragher is long past it and a liability

    2. Gerrard can't grab a game by the scruff of the neck anymore

    3. Man U needed a bit of class from Berbatov to win, there weren't many clear cut chances (as per against Rangers) - surely this will cost them this season whilst Chelsea bang in 4 or 5 a game)

    4. Torres looks dejected, surely he won't hang around if he wants out and the ££'s or euros do the talking on his price

    Good game to watch, think both teams will have poor seasons by their own standards though

  • Comment number 25.

    Shanklyroad, I'll take a stab in the dark and suggest you were part of the IRWT brigade. What Liverpool have now is almost a direct result of the ineffectual dealings of the previous manager. Yes he brought Torres to the club but, let's be honest, that was as great an achievement as persuading Shearer to play for Newcastle.

    Yesterday, Liverpool were shocking. They played like a team wanting not to lose, rather than a side wanting to win. Liverpool fans used to moan about the quality of the players Benitez inherited from Houlier. The wubbish Woy has to deal with is worse. At least Carragher was still at the peak of his powers. Now he offers passion; sadly, little else. Gerrard still trys and Torres must surely be thinking how stupid he was to fall for the "new owners" red herring when he returned to Melwood.

    As for the summer acquisitions. Konchesky - good enough to play for Liverpool now; would never have got in the great Liverpool teams of the past. Poulsen - makes Lucas look good. Meireles - aside from looking like Reina's twin (separated at birth), offers nothing. Cole - maybe now we see why England and Chelsea didn't want him. His powers have most definitely waned. He needs to get back to the pomp of his pre-injury form.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think that whatever the situation or the reasons every manager should be given a couple of seasons to get it right. The key thing about ManU and Chelsea is that they are both teams. Yes, they have stars, but first and foremost they are teams. In a good team the players can find each other without having to think or look (bit of an overstatement) and that takes time. You can make a good pass to Rooney or Drogba because you think like them such things don't happen overnight. If you buy in players you need time to tune in.

    Rafa changed his teams so often that this fine tuning never happened.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Great comment. Let's not underestimate the task facing hodgson at liverpool for it is a large one. He has inherited a squad in decline from a man who was given plenty of money to sepnd over 5 years and has not developed a strong team that understand each other well. The problem I had with Benitez is that he acted like 7 million was not a large amount of money to spend on a player. In my opinion it is a lot of money to spend on a player and if you've got it, you should make damn sure you know what your getting for your buck. Instead Liverpool has seen an influx of players move in and then out again, often at a loss, for years under Benitez. Over 5 years, Benitez never got close to solving the problem that only two liverpool players were ever coming up with the goals. Hodgson now finds that one is struggling for fitness and recieving a complete lack of service and the other is in the twilight of his career.

    Compare Gerrard's performance to Scholes's yesterday and you will understand why Gerrard is unlikely to hold the same influence at 35 years old. Scholes played with intelligence, turning forward on the ball, looking to make a forward pass, making himself available to his teammates every time. Gerrard was pretty anonomouys, minus his two goals (a penalty, and a free kick that shouldn't have gone in). His age means that he is naturally declining from the stong, pacy athlete he once was, and regardless of what people say, he has never been a partiulary imaginative or dangerous passer. His technique for striking a ball is superb still but I have never regarded him as central midfielder, he is an attacker that starts from midfield, when he loses the service of an intelligent, deeper lying CM (ALonso) his game suffers. I think Hodgson needs to get Gerrard to play a more disciplined forward role, and find that CM who can play with intelligence and supply the front.

  • Comment number 27.

    If a 3-2 defeat ot Old Trafford is a serious decline then what level where Liverpool playing at before?
    Obviously Liverpool are not playing well at the moment, which just goes to show actually how poor United where. They could have won by 4+ goals against this current Liverpool team.
    I think a close result like this shows more in favour of Liverpool than United judging by how poor people are saying Liverpool are at the moment.
    Also, Berbatov did have a great game, and the defence couldn't hold him but a few (very few) performances don't validate a £30m transfer, he needs to continue to play like that for the rest of this season and into the beginning of the next.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think your article was fair and I certainly feel that Liverpool were let back in the game by United's complacency. I'm no fan of Liverpool, but I think there has been a premature rush to damning judgement after an impressive pre-season that saw the retention of the big stars and a capture of a good, sought-after player in Joe Cole. In their first five games they have been matched against Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd. The game against Birmingham was not impressive, but Liverpool's ambition must be fourth. I don't think they can written off that with such a tough start to the season. Let's see where they are in a month or two, though - honestly - I think the current top five are the ones who will be there at the end. (Hopefully not in the current order.)

  • Comment number 29.

    What was Hogdson thinking about when he played Raul behind Torres. He is a midfielder who has not striking abiliies like Gerrard. Torres feds on passes and ball played ahead of him and virtually it was onlt Gerrard who could that in a team that featured 'invincible Maxi' He is not a striker, attacker nor a winger. He has been useless eversince Rafa signed him. I dont think he has any businesss at Anfield. Poulsen rarely passed forward but could Lucas do better? No Lucas would rather back backward and to the nearest player around him even if it a Utd player. He cant tackle like Poulsen. Seriously Liverpool need a better striking partner. The backline is as weak as the Utd defence. They made bad strikers like Berbatov good. Why let Torres tackle Berbatov which let to the 1st goal. What was Konchesky doing in the goal post when he could not 'suarez'. He should have bee tackeling Berbatov.

    Well executed kicks by Gerrard. for Fergie he has never changed. The last defender stopping a striker goalbound sees red. Its simple. Bringing down an opponent in the box is a penalty. Last season when Valencia was brought down outside the box by Mascherano he dived into the box for Rooney to convert. Fergie would introduced new rules after the game had it been 2-2. Hogdon has never been a cup winner for teams that he managed. He mediocre but at least better than Rafa who mismanages and replaced below average players for below average. After he had finished dismanted a team buildt by Houllier after 2years he never won anything for Liverpool. He wasted funds.

    Liverpool will surely bounce back




  • Comment number 30.

    I think the real winners were Chelsea. Liverpool are nowhere near and the fragile United defence will only make life easier for the blues. United concede far too many goals.

  • Comment number 31.

    Good blog but can't believe you failed to mention the main reason Liverpool were so dominated yesterday... the fact that we sat so deep and just invited United to attack us. For all Rafa's faults (and i was one who thought the time was right for him to leave in the summer) he at least got Liverpool applying pressure high up the pitch and held a defensive line much further up the field. Yesterday Liverpool dropped back so deep after equalising it was inevitable IMO that United were going to score again.

    I also agree with a previous comment saying that Carragher is now a weak link in this Liverpool side. Why i don't think he's past it completely, i do think that Agger HAS to be first choice centre back and then take your pick from Skrtel, Carra or Krygiakos as his partner.

  • Comment number 32.

    Liverpool are lurching from one disaster to another. There are so many things wrong at the club that it's difficult to know where to start!

    The owners have bled the club dry. Priority number 1 must be to remove them as soon as possible.

    We have let players like Alonso and Mascherano leave in recent seasons and the replacements are not of the same quality. Why Roy Hodgson purchased Konchesky who is mediocre at best and a liability the rest of the time is beyond me. Yes Torres marking was poor but Konchesky was standing behind Reina if he was where he should have been he would have cleared it!

    The article here praises Gerrard, but in truth he has been going through the motions in a Liverpool shirt for the last 12 months. Two setpieces hid another lacklustre performance. Joe Cole may as well have been on the sidelines he was that anonymous. Torres who is struggling to regain full match fitness was left isolated up front against 4 defenders. Carra is probably still only 1st choice Centre Half because of his experience and nationality. Maxi will probably be on his way in January so why was he starting this game?

    We need a complete revolution from top to bottom, but under the two current owners that will not happen. The nagging thought that Roy Hodgson is just a yes man who is easy for the owners to control, will not go away. Also a point for Roy, we don't care about your relationship with Ferguson. Rafas relationship with Ferguson was just how our fans want that particular relationship to be like.

    It is very difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel but all Liverpool fans must get behind the team, and do everthing in their power to get rid of the two parasites who have dragged our club to its knees.

    YNWA

  • Comment number 33.

    LFC go to OT and lose 3-2. I dont think that a symbol of decline. There are far greater signs than this. I am sure Phil wrote the same about United last season after losing 4-1 to LFC.

    This was no classic either. Two teams lacking form.

  • Comment number 34.

    Fergie's claim that this match is "the daddy of the derbies" might have been true once upon a time, but given it's relatively minor significance in the chase for the title especially in recent seasons I'd suggest it's dropped well down the pecking order in most looked forward to games. For a while it's been clashes between United, Chelsea and perhaps Arsenal that have mattered most and drawn most excitement. Now the United v City match-ups have also superseeded it, perhaps even followed by Spurs v Arsenal and even Liverpool v Everton in the hearts of supporters?

    Liverpool fans love to beat United and vice-versa but to the neutrals it's no longer the same heavyweight clash it once was. Liverpool are capable on their day of beating anyone..but their fans approach big games more with hope than expectation under their present ownership. Doubt either side really looks forward to the games?

  • Comment number 35.

    Phil,
    I've been awaiting this blog since i learnt you were at Old Trafford for the game. It must have been a difficult blog to write because the game didn't tell us we anything we didn't already know. Manchester United are good going forward but are frail defensively. Liverpool are a team in decline and wont go to any of the top clubs, expecting to win. Dimitar Berbatov would eventually come good for United. Howard Webb almost always seems to make questionable decisions in the big games.

    However, if you looked at this game in isolation would you still be suggesting that Manchester United are frail defensively. They conceded two goals against Liverpool but were very unlucky on both occassions. Liverpool never really threatened and Van der Sar didn't have a save to make. On the other hand, it's Liverpool who looked very frail defensively. They conceded 3 goals from crosses and none of those goals should have gone in if they had defended properly.

  • Comment number 36.

    Berbatov was fantastic yesterday afternoon. He fully deserved his plaudits and has really kicked off the season in top gear. I have been one in the past to criticise his previous appearances for us, but now he is finnaly showing his potential as the dangerous striker Fergie signed him as.

    I am worried about our defence. Hopefully we can sort out this problem sooner rather than later. But a good game, and it's always a nice feeling to put another one over Liverpool!

  • Comment number 37.

    Craig, don't know what game you watched, some of United's link up play between the front 3, mixed with the controlled possession in the middle from Scholes, Fletcher and Giggs was exceptional, and look who Chelsea have played so far this season. You say "apart from Berbatov" but you see every week, people are saying a different name - "apart from Rooney/Scholes/Nani/Giggs you've got nothing".

    We'll see if Chelsea are still banging in 4 or 5 every game after Christmas. Their first actual test of the season coming up in the next week, and a game against Arsenal to follow.

    As for the "if we're so bad, how did we score twice?" comments - a penalty and a soft wall for a free kick.

  • Comment number 38.

    In simple terms, United deserved to win. This is undoubtedly one of the weakest Liverpool sides i have ever seen. Not my heart or organisation. Too many poor players (Maxi, Jovanovic, Poulson, Konchesky). There are a lot of defeats ahead of us this season. Soundly beaten by a team that are also in decline, albeit not as rapidly. Two clubs in fancial meltdown. For United, the question will be how can we replace Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand, and Neville, (even OShea and Brown are not young anymore) when we have no money. For Liverpool, the question is how can they keep their best players and any self-respect and dignity. Hodgson is a good man but he is in a terrible job. New owners and real investment are the only answer for both clubs. Without that, a long unhappy road ahead with Chelsea, City, Arsenal, and Spurs overtaking us both.

  • Comment number 39.

    A nice match it is, although i have some reservations. A game man utd dominated but the result did not reflect that. Man utd's defence still has work to do, the midfield should not too reliant on the aging Scholesy,with time the attack will be sharp again. Berbatov was superb,his second goal was outstanding-not many in the EPL can score that kind of goal. The season is fresh though but my money is on United to win the title back from chelsea. Flo

  • Comment number 40.

    Poor display from Liverpool, Utd weren't convincing either. Nani needs to get on with it and stop looking for the foul. Inconsistent refereeing again from Webb, he seems to make up his own laws of the game. If he penalised O'Shea, it had to be a red card. Evans looks and plays like a schoolboy.

    "He will not say it publicly, and rightly so, but his chief objective is to restore Liverpool to the Champions League, with maybe the odd cup triumph as an added bonus." If I were a Liverpool fan I'd want more than that.

    Finally...you've stopped calling Berbatov "laconic"!

  • Comment number 41.

    I agree United probably deserved the points and Liverpool will struggle to get close to the top four but it doesn't change the fact that United scraped a win. While the gap between the clubs is growing, so is the gap between Chelsea and United.

    The supposed best league in the world could be a one-horse race unless Chelsea start dropping cheap points like they did last season.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 42.

    'They lacked ambition for huge portions of this game, relying once again on the heroic Gerrard to act as inspiration, goalscorer, leader and just about everything else'

    Gerrad got run all over in the midfield and created zero but because he scored a penalty and hit a free-kick straight at a wall, that went in due to terrible defending, you feel the need to come out with nonsense like that above. Why?

  • Comment number 43.

    A nice match it is, although i have some reservations. A game man utd dominated but the result did not reflect that. Man utd's defence still has work to do, the midfield should not too reliant on the aging Scholesy,with time the attack will be sharp again. Berbatov was superb,his second goal was outstanding-not many in the EPL can score that kind of goal. The season is fresh though but my money is on United to win the title back from chelsea. Flo

  • Comment number 44.

    My wife, United fan former season ticket holder "I think O'Shea should have been sent off"
    My son, Liverpool fanatic "Don't think we'll make top 6 this year"
    I'm strictly a neutral and am wondering why the main blog on the BBC football site is about a distinctly average match between an average team and a below average team.

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil, clearly as a Chelsea fan I don't really give two hoots about Liverpool or Man U but, I think you're analysis is wrong and perhaps even contradictory.

    Man U's defence - I think it is lapses of concentration rather than an innate frailty. Pretty much the only two chances Liverpool had of scoring were given to them by two moments of error. One being the rash challenge by Evans and the other a similarly risking challenge by O'Shea. If that is it, then surely they are individual moments rather than indicative of a dodgy back line. Were there any other times that Liverpool played through the Man U defence that would give credence to your assertion? I don't think so. And really, it is just individual moments that have cost Man U rather than the defence as a whole be suspect. (Of the, the contradiction that I think you have made is that later in your piece you state that it was Torres that invited the fouls. Again, not exactly Liverpool giving the Man U defence grief is it?)

    Gerrard - you laud the captain's performance and yet apart from the well taken set pieces, what else did he do? Hardly heroic!

  • Comment number 46.

    20. At 09:17am on 20 Sep 2010, GraymeadYNWA wrote:

    I don't think we would have this analysis if that was Spurs there Yesterday, people would be talking about how, despite United showing more quality, Spurs dug in and gave them a right scare at the end of the day, and there was a lot to build on. There is not reason why the same cannot be said about our performance yesterday.

    Yeah they might say that, but as a Spurs fan that kind of performance would be unsatisfactory... Liverpool were just horrible, you guys got lucky with the scoreline. Rooney is playing worse than Torres, considering the distribution he gets.

  • Comment number 47.

    Do you think Berbatov's current improvement is to him giving up international football, or is it he has finally adapted to life in Manchester. Either way he is starting to play in a similar way to his time at spurs.

  • Comment number 48.

    good words mcnulty, your best for a while.

    a couple of things though: yourself and many other journalists have made it out as though berbatov is suddenly a great player again, and his link-up play and all-round football intelligence is suddenly back. not true - this has been a constant asset of berbatov's to a united team which has been successful while he's been in it - it's the goalscoring that's starting to get him attention. but admittedly his form has been miles better so far this season than last year, his worst for man u.

    also it's difficult to blame torres because he was so isolated up front. he's the kind of player that won't, and isn't in the team to, contribute regularly in passages of play. he springs to life when he sees an opportunity, and he's deadly at it. only thing is this happens so less regularly than when liverpool nearly won the league 2 years ago.

    otherwise an accurate and insightful piece

  • Comment number 49.

    29. At 09:37am on 20 Sep 2010, chillingbrother wrote:

    The last defender stopping a striker goalbound sees red. Its simple.

    _______________________________________________________________________

    That's simply not true.

    The criterion is denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. I don't call Edwin Van Der Sar having the ball comfortably in both hands a clear goalscoring opportunity.

    Yes it was clumsy and yes it was a foul, but all it denied was Torres putting some pressure on VDS. Yellow was the correct decision.

  • Comment number 50.

    '.....while United's boss also suggested Liverpool's loss amounted to a "catastrophe". Not quite.'

    Yes Phil. Not quite indeed. Because Ferguson was actually making a point about how the media builds these games up, and then subsequently overreacts in the post-match analysis. Kinda ironic that you should use it out of context here, in an article which signals the demise of Liverpool after their OT defeat. :)

  • Comment number 51.

    footballfutbolfitba, last season was the first major trophy Chelsea have won since 2006 - let's not get too giddy about their ability to put 4 past Blackpool

  • Comment number 52.

    That was one fabulous goal from Berba. I always thought he had the potential - and it was good for SAF to be tha patient. Just wishing Rooney picks up, and then the forward line can look cracking.

  • Comment number 53.

    First of all, let me say that I support neither United or Liverpool, but to say that Liverpool deserved anything from this game is, at best, grossly misinformed, and at worst, wildly delusional.

    The only reason they go anywhere near scoring was defensive frailties by the home side - certainly an area of concern for Sir Alex - but Liverpool offered nothing going forward and have got a long, hard season ahead of them.

    United on the other hand, always looked dangerous on the attack and with Berbatov finally starting to justify his price tag they look well poised to take advantage of any slip-ups by the champions.

  • Comment number 54.

    Utd were lucky, nothing more. All the anti-Liverpool media babble aside, the referee decided the game when he failed to send O'Shea off for a professional foul. If any Utd fan was honest, they would admit it should have been red, but I expect anyone associated with fergie and Man U to avoid honesty like the plague. Think of all the great saves Reina pulled off during the game...oh wait, he didn't have to. So much for Utd dominance. Liverpool are rebuilding, and need to sort out off field problems. This is accepted. Utd have serious problems of their own and blind their blind 'fans' can't seem to see this. Fergie is a joke.

  • Comment number 55.

    Bored!ZZZZZZzzzzzzz!!! Same literature again. Phil, give us something new. You wrote the same thing last night from Old Trafford after the game finished.

  • Comment number 56.

    Berbatov was great yesterday and United deserved to win. Liverpool didn't play well, too many sidways and backwards passes as reported on Match of the Day. One thing that hasn't been reported is how Glen Johnson couldn't cope with a nearly 37 year old Ryan Giggs, Johnson didn't have a clue what to do, a worrying sign for both Liverpool and England.

  • Comment number 57.

    Good article but Fergie did not directly say that Liverpool's defeat was a catastrophe. In his post match interview he said that defeat for Man United or Liverpool in these sort of games is regarded as a catastrophe such is the importance the fans and media place on it. Clearly he himself does not see it that way. Howerver, Liverpool are alrealy 10 points off leaders Chelsea and obviously out of the title race.

    --------------------------------------------

    I don't think that Fergie was saying that either side losing would be a catastrophe. He said that had United lost yesterday, it would have been one, such was their superiority.

    I think the people writing off bopth sides need to lay off until the end of October or thereabouts. So far Liverpool have had the toughest fixture list imaginable. Away trips to United, City and Birmingham, as well as home to Arsenal. While United's has been a lot easier, there were still tough away days to Everton and Fulham, who are a match for anyone at the Cottage. Chelsea have coasted, with Stoke at home being their biggest challenge to date. The next 4/5 weeks will give us a much better indication as to where both teams are at. If Liverpool continue to struggle, then questions should be asked, but until then, I'd say people should lay off Roy.

    As far as personnel goes for the pool though, there seems to be a bit of bite missing. Konchesky looks to be struggling with his crossing and is linking up poorly with his left wingers. Gerrard is giving his typical 100 per cent effort, yet the quality seems to be lacking. Although he bagged two goals, he created precious little, and his free kick would have been straight into the wall, had Darren Fletcher not completely lost concentration. Torres just seems devoid of confidence and match practice. Ideally, he should be resting and coming back slowly, but I think it speaks volumes for Hodgson's trust in N'Gog more than anything.

    Joe Cole usually terrifies United teams whenever he plays them, but seemed very ineffective yesterday, while I noticed Maxi was on the field around the hour mark.

    Mereiles is playing much further up the field than I have seen him do before, and I thought he was your best player for large parts.

  • Comment number 58.

    It was Berbatov's dies mirabilis and all his three strikes went in with millimetres to spare, especially the glorious second which bounced down off the crossbar only slightly further over the line than Lampard's phantom goal against Germany.

    In truth, it was game of very few chances and 0-0 was a more plausible scoreline than 3-2. One does not expect Ferguson to be magnanimous in victory any more than he is gracious in defeat, but his claim that United might have had a "cricket score" was ludicrous - apart from the three goals, Reina did not have a save to make.

  • Comment number 59.

    They made bad strikers like Berbatov good.
    ----------------------------------------------------------
    That really is a most stupid comment. Berbatov is a highly skillful, technical player. He was good at Leverkusen and was brilliant at Spurs when he was paired with Robbie Keane. So to deride him as 'bad' makes you look stupid. Hopefully he has found his feet at Old Trafford now. By your logic Ian Rush must have been an awful striker because he struggled at Juventus and Mark Hughes obviously was rubbish because Barcelona loaned him out to Bayern Munich. The argument is nonsense Berbatov is a good player just like those I just mentioned were. It just sometimes takes a while to settle in different environments.

  • Comment number 60.

    while United's boss also suggested Liverpool's loss amounted to a "catastrophe". Not quite.

    You have to pay more attention Phil, I know your quote makes a nice "sound bite" but you can't just make them up you know.

  • Comment number 61.

    Had enough of pundits and neutrals saying Liverpool are rebuilding. Liverpool fans keep crying how they havent had any money to spend this season?? Seem to forget they signed Meireles for 12 million, Koncheskey for 5 millions and Poulsen for around 4. Thats more than £20million. Thats a lot of money considering you are supposed to be in huge debt. So people need to stop being so sympathetic. They should comfortably finish in the top seven and possibly 5th, no excuses. The likes of Reina, Gerrard, Meireles, Joe Cole, Kuyt, Maxi and Torres are far better players than most in the league and any of the top four would love them in their side. Any thoughts?

  • Comment number 62.

    Phil

    "depended on decisions from the linesman to get back in the game" (not true at all)"

    Well the peno was liverpool's first shot on target and the freekick was their second shot on target.

    Was it Roy's plan to play for both a peno and a freekick?. In this context the linesman helping liverpool back nto the game is absolutely 100% definately true.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 64.

    As a neutral I thought it a bit of a drab game until Liverpool scored to make it interesting. Man U dominated by and large, but Liverpool didn't look that far off them to be honest, just a general lack of confidence and cutting edge was the difference - for instance, put the Torres of two years ago in that team and it could have been very different. Always been a fan of Berbatov, great player and seems a decent bloke too.

    Funny old game though isn't it, Liverpool were distinctly below par, thoroughly outplayed, and in the end were unlucky to come away with nothing. O'Shea should have walked after bringing Torres down.

  • Comment number 65.

    The scoreline flattered Liverpool and I'm am sure that their fans know it. JOS was rightly shown a yellow and it was a penalty.

    Nani should have had one from his chances.

    Decent performance from United but looks like it will be tough chasing Chelsea who appear at this early stage to be very strong. We will see how they do against Cidy and then Arsenal who will be missing their best two players.

    Some good chants at the ground in addition to the usual bile, Thursday night, channel 5 was my favourite.......

    Ginger

  • Comment number 66.

    Utd were lucky, nothing more. All the anti-Liverpool media babble aside, the referee decided the game when he failed to send O'Shea off for a professional foul. If any Utd fan was honest, they would admit it should have been red, but I expect anyone associated with fergie and Man U to avoid honesty like the plague. Think of all the great saves Reina pulled off during the game...oh wait, he didn't have to. So much for Utd dominance. Liverpool are rebuilding, and need to sort out off field problems. This is accepted. Utd have serious problems of their own and blind their blind 'fans' can't seem to see this. Fergie is a joke.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    Oh the irony of this post! I seem to remember from watching MOTD2 last night a certain European Cup winning Liverpool centre half by the name of Mark Lawrenson saying that the referee got the decision spot on as the ball was nowhere near Torres - and that Van der Sar would have most likely have got to it first. Also I believe he said that United deserved to win the match - and Shearer also agreed. I personally think both sides have a bit of rebuilding to do - however Liverpool have a lot more to worry about than United.

  • Comment number 67.

    Liverpool will do well to get a europa place this season. Its very very sad to see this big club where they are now.

  • Comment number 68.

    A typical E.P.L.game dramatic and exciting which is why it's the best in the world to watch, may be a little short on technique compared to Spain but who cares.İt's been obvious from the start of the season that Liverpool are going to struggle for many reasons and that blame has to lie mostly with Benitez he bought most of the current squad and rightly got the push which should have been much sooner,Liverpool's own fault for giving him that stupid long contract.Much as i admire what Roy Hodgson did at Fulham when you examine his previous C.V. it's not what a club of Liverpool's stature and history should have gone after and that will have to be rectified sooner rather than later.Man Utd a well deserved victory Liverpool a long and difficult season ahead,give Torres the service he needs and he like Berbatov will score plenty,it will be interesting to see how Chelsea shape up on Saturday having just played 5 of the worst teams in the league on the trot, personally not as well as some people are expecting them to.

  • Comment number 69.

    Ferguson is a highly succesful manager but his comments are always ungracious, misinformed and downright idiotic. 2 reporters at his pre-match press conference because he's banned all the other papers because he doesn't like what they report, and what does he do, go on a vitriolic rampage against Benitez for god's sake.
    Taggart is panicking now because poor teams (Liverpool, Everton and Fulham) have put 7 past his great (ha ha) team. United won't come close to Chelsea, City or Aresenal this season. The United defense is a shambles. Taggart Calling Torres a cheat when it is clear that he was fouled is burying his head in the sand to the decline that is happening at Old Trafford. The sad thing is the sheep that call themselves 'United Fans' follow his pathetic example.

  • Comment number 70.

    It was a very boreing game. man u had no real idea apart from yet again the efforts of both Nani and Berbartov. Without either of these two the game would have ended a bore snooze 0-0 and this team will struggle big time, as for berbatove being a " genius " what utter rubbish hes very mediocre and watch his form go the way of Rooney, downhill! note also the Hoof and Chase football adopted by man u? kick and chase for Nani, utter boreing to watch.

    Torres is an utter waste of space and i lost count how many times liverpool passed the ball backwards, even Blackpool at least know where the goal is, liverpool are basicly a spent force, they have no idea at all, wether thats going forwards, sideways or backwards i think we could see liverpool go down to the championship, good thing as well, we dont really want to pay good money to watch such negativity and boreing football.

  • Comment number 71.

    #61 clarkeysportswriter

    I think the re-building thing is the typical soundbite when the there is a new manager, a poor season to recover from perhaps not inheriting the best squad.

    You're right though, Liverpool spent £22m on 5 players this summer. They also brought in 4 freebies and a swap. They got rid of 11 players bringing in £30m. From that then, they have spent less than they received and have a highish player turnover. Perhaps the re-building thing is fair after all?

  • Comment number 72.

    #68 premier league fan

    I read last night that those '5 of the worst teams in the league' had actually amassed more points between them than the 5 teams that Man U had played so far.

  • Comment number 73.

    Post #20 GraymeandYNWA is possibly the wisest comment I've read on here for a while. Completely sums it up. Liverpool are a side in transition and shouldn't be judged alongside the 'Big 3'. They are a big club and will come good again soon.

    United Fan.

  • Comment number 74.

    Liverpool may look a side waiting to 'gel' but the worry must be that they didn't look up for this game as a unit and the 1 goal between the sides was very very flattering. And where is the 'bounce' effect usually brought by new managers? Gerrard heroic? Looked out of the game for most of the time. Carragher is way past whatever 'best' he had and Torres generally just does not look a happy boy these days notwithstanding his recuperation from injury? At first I thought that some of their players may have been tired after Thursday night but as only 3 of the outfield players who played against Steaua started yesterday hardly so.

    Superb finishing by DB but lets see where we are as the season progresses before he is 'crowned' but almost surreal to see him take centre stage when Rooney looked pretty anonymous. The worry though for SAF must be the number of costly errors and weaknesses in the past two league games from JE, rapidly looking like the weakest link. Again the defence was almost costly for them. But it was not a red card for JoS and anyone suggesting this really is grasping at straws: there was no goalscoring opportunity to merit a straight red and the TV pictures clearly show this.

  • Comment number 75.

    Generally good performance from United, but once again Evans and O'Shea exposed as being sub standard. I've wondered what O'Shea does to get in United's team for a long time now, particularly when we have such a talent in Rafael and even Fabio can play right back. I'd rather see Smalling given a run if Rio isn't fit to come back because not a game passes where Jonny Evans doesn't look completely at sea with any striker of any pedigree at all.

    Feel sorry for Hodgson, he's inherited such a dire squad from Rafa. Mereiles isn't a bad signing but Poulsen doesn't offer anything at all pretty much the same as Lucas. They need another 2 forwards really.

    Great to see Dimitar finally doing what we all knew he could do. I've thought for a while he has shades of Cantona about him and that second is surely going to be up there for goal of the season already?

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    Great to hear Ferguson being so magnanimous in victory as he always is in defeat. What a fine example to all club managers he is. It really is so refreshing to hear his comments post-match. The Utd fans must be delighted to have this paragon of virtue in charge of their 'great' club.
    Frankly, the sour, vitriolic bleating that consistently cascades from Fergie's dour Scottish lips epitomises everything that is wrong about modern football and the Premiership. This buffoon doesn't deserve a platform to express his bitter views. Even when his side wins, he has to find a way to belittle LFC with words - what a sad man he is.

  • Comment number 78.

    Overall it was a great performance from Utd who thoroughly deserved to win. Liverpool only got two goals from set pieces because of moments of stupidity by O'Shea and Evans who are gaining reputations for this. Other than that Liverpool were non existent and will probably struggle to get a Europa League place this season.

    Utd usually do start their season slowly so it would be completely wrong to write them off, not to mention that Chelsea haven't really come up against any challenging opposition.

  • Comment number 79.

    I think yesterday's game was a cracker with alarm bells ringing for both sides.
    Ferguson is wrong to suggest that Liverpool offered nothing but then he is likely to exaggerate and who can blame a victorious manager for basking in what must have been a sweet victory. They did offer little. He is wrong to say that Edwin Van der Saar had no saves to make (he actually had 2 but missed them - just as Reina had 3 and missed them)
    I think we saw a masterclass from Berbatov albeit against some sloppy defensive work from Torres and Carragher and for Ferguson to say that it could have been 10 perhaps belies a lack of cutting edge from Utd. Rooney hardly featured and as people are suggesting is perhaps as off form as Torres - perhaps Utd need another £25 - £30 million pound striker or are they fading to Liverpool's standard of not being able to afford/attract another one.
    This fixture has thrown up very few games over the past where the team offering the most have left with all the points. Quite often this fixture has been stolen by a spack of tenacity or a sending off.
    Utd (the home side) deserved their win yesterday but should they be at least a little worried that they had to resort, in the end, to unfair play and lying about the linesman to achieve it?
    Liverpool will struggle to get in the top four this season and as a fan I will follow them in their struggle.Personally ,I do not think that Utd are offering enough to take the outright lead in the League Winners record and if they do - fair play to them, especially if they can sleep at night with Nani disgracing their shirt.

  • Comment number 80.

    Liverpool got 2 lucky/stupid goals. That suggests the game was close but in reality, it was miles apart!

    Should O'Shea have gone? Possibly. But look at Berbatov's first goal, Torres trying to haul him down, pen and a yellow card had it not gone in and Konchesky trying to save it with his hands, red card and penalty if it had not gone in. Why does the ball have to not go in for an offence to be punishable?

    As for Fergie's comments, the win allowed him to pile the pressure onto Liverpool. Maybe he was trying to get a Rafa style rage out of Woy. It's what Fergie does, mind games and it usually works!

    Stevie G had a poor game but it was an heroic one?

    Torres didn't get much service but he also couldn't defend! Why get him to mark berbatov if he can't even get goal side of him?

    United are not frail at the back. They are momentary lapses which have been punished (Fulham, Everton and yesterday). Had we put our chances away Liverpool could have been well out of sight. A penalty and mis-hit free kick do not a close game make!

  • Comment number 81.

    This is possibly the worst bit of jurno rubbish I have ever read!!
    Liverpool did not play amazingly or dominate the game ( not many teams dominate Utd at Old Trafford ) however the first half was tight and only a set piece and some slack defending by Torres marking Berbatov lead to a 1-0 scoreline. 2nd goal no team in the world can defend against a moment of shere class that was berbatov's second goal.
    But to mount a decent fightback to get to 2-2 I think Liverpool deserve a little more credit than they are getting from the press 3 of Liverpools opening 5 fixtures have been againt Utd, Arsenal and big spending City no other PL club has had that tough a start, mix in the complication of the early Europa league quilifiers and the ins and outs of the squad in the summer I think it is really harsh to be slating them.

    The next 2 league games are Sunderland and Blackpool at home these are 2 gmaes I fully expect Liverpool to win and then things will look a little different.

    We are not gonna win the league all right minded reds know that however to completly right us off as a club in total decline is a gross over reaction and is typical of the Ferguson Loving british press who wait with baited breath for ever bit of garbage he spouts

  • Comment number 82.

    Good article. I think yesterdays game shows how much Liverpool have gone back from their second place finish two seasons ago. They have made average signings during the summer and while Hodgson is a good manager I think it is a step back for Liverpool. Joe Cole was hailed as a superb signing by Liverpool players and fans alike however I think his performances against Arsenal and Man Utd show why Chelsea were happy to let him go on a free transfer. I think Liverpool's season will be similar to the last one and I would not be surprised if they finished outside the top six.

  • Comment number 83.

    United were head and shoulders above Liverpool, but it was more the lack of ambition that put paid to Liverpool's chances in my book...

    If i was a Liverpool fan i'd take comfort in the fact that Raul Meireles and Christian Poulsen looked to have decent games with Fletcher and Scholes stifled, however Maxi Rodriguez put in one of the most anonymous displays i have seen, coupled with Joe Cole not performing allowed United to dominate the wings, Nani and Giggs were always overlapped by Evra and O'Shea, in the end the shear number of crosses into the Liverpool box were bound to produce goals eventually.

    Good win for United, 2 very sloppy goals conceded though.

  • Comment number 84.

    Were any of you actually at OT yesterday or all you all Sky Armchair fans or served up with carefully edited highlights by the BBC ? Six things that you would know if you were there:
    1 - Liverpool offered very little goal threat throughout the game..
    2 - Howard Webb had another shocker, although he got the penalty call right..
    3 - Rooney had another poor game and Berbatov has assumed his mantle as United match winner this season..
    4 - United's failure to find a replacement/alternative to the Ginger Prince in the last transfer window could cost us dear this season..
    5- Rio would have marshalled Torres harmlessly into no mans land but Evans made a rash and unneccesary challenge showing his inexperience, Not a Red card in a month of Sundays..
    6- Vidic had Torres in his pocket whenever they came together, two mistakes from lesser defenders handed the initative back to Liverpool who were straight back on the rack immidiately..
    Oh, and United conceded a penantly at Old Trafford and still ran out easy winners against a supposedly top side. Were you watching Rafa and Arsene?

  • Comment number 85.

    Fair analysis of the game Phil...which makes a change BUT i think you need to listen to Sir Alexs post match interview again.

    Not at one point did he say a defeat for Liverpool was catastrophic.

    He actually said THE PRESS would claim a defeat for either United or Liverpool in this fixture would be catastrophic. The way he said it was dismissive of the press.

    The BBC still wonder why SAF wont speak to them directly! Radio 5 have been misquoting him all morning as well. "Sir Alex says defeat for Liverpool is catastrophic"

    Utter, utter nonsense and extremely lazy journalism. If i heard what SAF said surely you did since youre getting paid to report on it!

  • Comment number 86.

    Yesterday's game said far more about Utd than Liverpool. Everyone knows Liverpool are on the crest of a slump at the moment, and Roy Hodgson has had neither the players or the time to sort it out. At best, at the moment, they are a mid table side. Everyone knows that, and even My Liverpool fan friends admit it, in fact, they are the first to say it.

    Despite that, Man Utd damn nearly didn't beat them, at home and with a pretty much completely rested team.

  • Comment number 87.

    davidmcc123, assuming your a united fan, i think its laughable to call gerrard the most overated player in the PL when you have rooney upfront with virtually no contribution to the team at all so far this season.

    And as for the "poorly hit" freekick, if you watch the replay, meriles makes that hole in the wall by pushing fletcher, id say that was off the training ground

  • Comment number 88.

    Who cares. The EPL will be won by either Manchester United or Chelsea as it has for the last 6 seasons. The rest of the clubs are making up the numbers in a very boring competition.

  • Comment number 89.

    New manager, same problem: mediocre, make-weight players that will never make the grade at the top end of the Premiership. Konchesky was so far out of his depth yesterday that he was in danger of drowning in the Manchester rain. Nani (when he wasn't diving and cheating) ran rings around him and his positioning at the corner that Berbatov scored United's first was woeful. He hid behind Reina instead of staying on the post where he would have easily blocked the header. Agger would have been a much better prospect from the start rather than as a belated sub.
    Ditto Poulsen, another anonymous performance from the Lucas lookalike. Add the worthless Maxi into that mix and it's no wonder Liverpool toiled. Glen Johnson would do a much better job on the right side of midfield with Martin Kelly behind him at right back. Maxi has no passion, enthusiasm or committment and should be shipped out in January. It was no coincidence that Liverpool's best spell in the game came after he was hooked off. Raul Meirles is a better prospect though. His game got better as the match progressed and he will come good with more time on the pitch.
    As for Torres - no mattter what his fitness, he should at least look like he wants to be on the pitch. His problem seems to be as much about attitude as physical condition.

  • Comment number 90.

    .... Still sunny here in South Africa ....

    A few comments, but i'll try and keep them brief.

    Man Utd vs Liverpool will always be a hotpot and eagerly awaited derby, the two clubs just have too much history, even with rebuilding, the crowd and the atmosphere; electric.

    I wonder why Roy Hodgeson moved from Fulham, the team was just beginning to look like a constant top 8 performer with aspirations to "top 5", moving back to a destroyed Liverpool team (In thanks to their two previous managers - I feel pity for both Aston Villa and Inter, they were better teams than the managers they got.

    I can envisage Alex Ferguson in the not too distant future experiencing the problems Liverpool are currently experiencing - owners that are robbing the clubs, it's a disgrace. That is why you will see him step down, he will know when the goose has run out of eggs.

    Carragher, too old, too slow. nuff said. Grimsby Town need defenders son.

    Berbatov, glad to see you;ve dropped the lazy attitude. Knew you had it in you, keep it up and you'll challenge this year for the Golden Boot - At Man Utd there's always going to be attacking service for you, rooney and Hernandez (Play him more Alex - play him more (3 Up front waddya say - dont know who we'll drop though)

    Chelsea this season will not win the Champions League, their holy grail will IMHO be something that eludes them. They will however win the Premier League - set a new scoring record, and Charity Shield aside end up undefeated (Unless Man Utd play like they did in the charity shield, assuming that Chelsea just didn't pitch up for a kick around).

    Just so you all you Liverpool supporters know, i'm now 37yrs old, and when I was old enough to decide,(4yrs Old) my team has always been Manchester United, I know what the wait is like to want that championship, but we always played attractive football, and did well in the FA Cup. Unless something gets done pronto for both your club and mine, we are both looking towards mediocrity as we have too much debt for billionaires (with no current debt) to feel comfortable with. Get a Lone Knight who never Walks consortium together and do it for yourselves (Remember hicks is poorer than you, but owns your club - he will sell if it continues to loose money, but how long is too late).

    Gary Bailey was my hero, Red Knights get those fat cats out before we become another "liverpool"

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    To collie21...so was this a game that also papered over cracks for United after I said getting a draw would only have done the same for Liverpool? What do you all think of that? United's defence conceded two goals without being under sustained pressure at any time in the game. It will cost them heavily if this continues, so Collie21 has a point.

    To Boilerbill...totally agree managers need time and have said this very clearly about Roy Hodgson, whose appointment I supported with 100%. Still feel he could have been bolder yesterday though, particular as it is clear United are vulnerable at the back.

    To PX-54...there has been an obvious decline at Liverpol, the league placings tell us that. I thought they were poor yesterday and I am actually surprised by the amount of satisfaction Liverpool and some of their supporters are drawing from losing at Manchester United.

    If United are as poor as some seem to suggest, why didn't Liverpool adopt a more positive stance? I am not expecting applause or whole-hearted agreement from Liverpool supporters, but they were vastly inferior to United yesterday.

    And on the calls for John O'Shea to be sent off, I actually think Howard Webb got that right because it was not actually a goalscoring opportunity for Fernando Torres. He was well away from the ball when Edwin van der Sar collected it.

    On a further point, I have to say I thought Sir Alex Ferguson was completely wrong to suggest Torres was trying to get O'Shea sent off. As many have rightly highlighted, Nani goes to ground far too easily and Ferguson may well care to have a word with him about over-doing the theatrics rather than homing in on a member of the opposition. On a positive note, Nani is really blossoming now and was excellent again yesterday.

  • Comment number 93.

    Ferguson shouldn't worry about venting his obvious relief at a 3-2 win at home to Liverpool (nearly another Everton result), who will no doubt improve, but worry about Chelsea. They look a class above Man Utd and could have had double figures against Blackpool if they had approached the second half the way they did the first. They simply took their foot off the pedal. This was also without Terry and Lampard.
    Liverpool in decline! I recall this has been said before, it's still too early to assess them

  • Comment number 94.

    I can't believe how our defence has gone from being the best in the league, (yes, we conceded the least last season) to one looking so fragile with no apparent change in personnel.

    The biggest concern for me other than John O'shea, (how he's sill with us I do not know?) is the decline of Johnny Evans, he's just under performed in every game so far and why doesn't fergie give the guy he paid a few quid for a chance, chris smalling, had a very impressive pre-season and hasn't had a sniff yet?

    I'm sure if we can iron out our defensive frailties then we will be on Chelsea's (they haven't played anyone yet have they?) heels all the way as we look very promising going forward with a lot of pace and verve and the transformation of Berbatov is very pleasing to see because I have been one of the fans to defend Berbatov as a player with so much talent doesn't turn bad over night, he's a 20 goal a season striker and I think this season he may just achieve that with us.

    It's always nice to get one over on the scousers and I'm going to refrain on commenting on them, as their decline isn't current, it's been happening for the past two decades.

    Bring on Scunthorpe!

  • Comment number 95.

    Phil, why is it a dangerous charge to point out that Torres is not interetsed? He shows all the signs of a player that wanted to leave Anfield in the summer but was ordered to stay because Liverpool FC was more sellable with him as an asset. Hes sulking, as is his way when things are not going right for him. I suggest he will hit top form in the second half of the season to get the top clubs sniffing again for next year. Liverpools number one target should be to get 50million for the boy and then busy themselves buying a heap load of more rubbish for next year. Whatever happened to Liverpool Football Club? its now a standing joke.

  • Comment number 96.

    Nobody can touch Alex Ferguson in terms of his management record, but he is so full of himself it's untrue. A gentleman he is not.

  • Comment number 97.

    Hi Phil,

    LOL, I like Nani, he's got that certain something you need to excel at Old Trafford, his football skill yesterday was excellent, but if you're going to play act as badly as he did yesterday at least go to drama school first - get some pointers. Only then will he be able to fill Ronaldo's shoes.

    And yes I mean that, in this modern age of football where if you are tackled with a feather you get the stretcher team on - it has become (made the game worse IMHO) game play. Get that right and he'll be curling 35yarders into the top corner, from his feinned dive (which after his diploma from the drama school) Mr Webb would be sold in a Old Trafford minute. (How long is an old trafford minute, answers on a postcard, bonus question - how long before spot betting on Nani getting fouled in the 3rd minute?)

  • Comment number 98.

    No 70

    You are BORING!
    Write liverpool off at your peril.

  • Comment number 99.

    Right, Man United fan here.

    United were far superior in the midfield and attacking departments. Liverpool were dire.

    Until United got sloppy in defence. Again. And let Liverpool back in the game. It wasn't Liverpool playing well, it was United playing awfully at the back.

    I think it's too early to say if United's defence is truly frail, but early indications suggest so. They just seem to switch off completely sometimes. And it's worrying if it continues. First Fulham, then Everton, and nearly Liverpool. What next?

    I think Liverpool have slowly got themselves in a mess over the last 20 years, and there is no quick fix. Other than Gerrard and still Torres (He is top quality, even if for whatever reasons he is having an off patch), Liverpool have no quality and no ambition.

    It's sad to see. Because Liverpool used to be one of our greatest enemies. And however much hate or banter goes on, I respect them.
    But they're soon going to be just another team, if saturday was anything to go by. No more tense, competitive derbies.

    Give Roy time. He may not be Mourinho, Fergie, Ancellotti or Hiddink, but he will go a long way to restoring the floundering Liverpool. 20 years of getting slowly messed up means a long time rebuilding.

  • Comment number 100.

    There are those who are questioning Uniteds defence, without looking at the bigger picture. United in the last two years have conceded the fewest goals in the PL (check the stats). United still got there first choice centre back in Rio to come back and a consistent run in the team with Vidic will see fewer goals going in.
    The same people who are accusing United's defence, also need to look at the teams Liverpool have played, and acknowledge that they will move up the table but IMHO not in the top 4.
    Many a pundit and journalist base their whole opinions on one weekend and see saw their opinions on what the dish of the day is. Let's get things into perspective Phil, so whilst people are getting carried away by Chelseas great start to the season, and United's "fragile" defence, lets see how both do in the coming months.

 

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