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Anfield's day of destiny

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Phil McNulty | 13:50 UK time, Friday, 23 October 2009

In between brickbats aimed at Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and beach balls hurled at Pepe Reina by goading Manchester United fans, something Sir Alex Ferguson calls "The Game" will break out at Anfield.

The Spirit of Shankly protest group are plotting a march to emphasise, as if it were needed, the strength of feeling against Liverpool's American hierarchy while - in a faintly surreal development - United supporters will be searched for beach balls after Rafael Benitez's men were undone by this unlikely piece of club merchandise at Sunderland.

Distractions and sideshows are never required when Liverpool and Manchester United meet and the current criticism, much justified but some downright hysterical, surrounding Rafael Benitez makes them even less important this Sunday.

Benitez's circumstances are clear enough. He needs to end Liverpool's worst run since 1987 swiftly, and while a meeting with Manchester United provides danger it also provides opportunity and the best possible chance to blow away the clouds of crisis.

And yet, in among the politics and behind-the-scenes pantomime that has replaced what used to be called "The Liverpool Way", it should not be ignored that the champions have not always been convincing themselves this season.

It does not do to question the team that sits on top of the Premier League once more, and Ferguson's faith in Manchester United's growing maturity and his strength of squad is backed up by how they have held firm as Liverpool and Chelsea have slipped recently.

But even seasoned and partisan Old Trafford observers would have to agree there has been an uncharacteristic vulnerability in defence, a fault that can be attributed to the uncertain goalkeeping of Ben Foster and the lack of match fitness and sharpness of Rio Ferdinand.

United needed to call on their time-honoured knack of escapology to fashion a draw from an awful display against Sunderland and it was sobering to witness the panic stations as they held on for victory against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford last Saturday.

The Champions League win against CSKA Moscow in Russia, sealed by the rapidly improving Antonio Valencia, had a reassuring "job done" air from a reshaped team and will have provided huge satisfaction for Ferguson.

fergie_rafa595.jpgSunday's meeting between Man Utd and Liverpool will be instructive on many levels

It was inevitable that United would take time to grow accustomed to the flair and brilliance that travelled with Cristiano Ronaldo when he left for Real Madrid, and there has been a workmanlike, pragmatic approach to their work this season.

But with Wayne Rooney in full cry, and Ryan Giggs again extending a wonderful Indian Summer to his career, they have managed to compensate to lead the pack once more.

Sunday provides a pivotal moment, even though we are talking about a season in its infancy and the glint in Ferguson's eye as he pondered this trip to enemy territory proved the point.

If United can go to Liverpool and win, revenge for two defeats last season will be a small matter when placed against the wider context. Ferguson is unlikely to have forgotten the way Liverpool - and in particular Fernando Torres - made short work of a defence that had made Premier League history in a 4-1 thrashing at Old Trafford, but a win at Anfield would soothe those painful memories.

Victory would be an emphatic assertion of authority by United. It would put them 10 points of clear of Liverpool and make pre-season predictions of a return of the title to Anfield (who was it who made those bold claims?) an even more distant prospect.

Ferguson will give Rooney every chance of recovering from a calf injury because he will be the main thrust of their game plan against an uncertain Liverpool defence. Darren Fletcher falls into the same category because he is implictly trusted to exert influence amid the midfield mayhem of such encounters.

If Rooney comes up short, what price the intriguing inclusion of Michael Owen in Manchester United's line-up against Liverpool at Anfield? The once unthinkable prospect.

Owen admits he is braced for a hostile reception given his perceived treachery in crossing this barrier of hostility - but how about some respect from The Kop for a magnificent servant to Liverpool?

It is not too great an exaggeration to say Owen won the FA Cup for Liverpool on his own against Arsenal in 2001. Is it too much to ask that this should be an abiding memory, not acrimony based on a perfectly logical career decision to join United after it became clear Liverpool boss Benitez did not want him back at Anfield?

Owen was not disloyal to Liverpool. He took a chance he could barely believe when Ferguson came calling.

United will start as favourites, particularly given Liverpool's run of four successive defeats. Benitez has escaped from turmoil before with big results, and with Fernando Torres expected to return, no-one should bet against him doing it again.

This is a big moment for Benitez, however, because the current discontent is different from previous turbulence. A major change was criticism aimed directly at the manager when he replaced Yossi Benayoun with Andriy Voronin in the loss to Lyon.

If not exactly untouchable, Benitez has been shielded by the antipathy towards Hicks and Gillett and a reservoir of goodwill built on the back of the 2005 Champions League win and other good works in Europe.

He also formed an adhesive bond with supporters who saw him as a fellow struggler in the fight against Hicks and Gillett, especially when it was revealed they had approached Jurgen Klinsmann behind his back to succeed him as manager. This cannot, however, last forever.

There is now the increasingly obvious realisation that Benitez has not been successful in building an undercard to the main protagonists at Anfield. If Ferguson can be pleased with the strength of his squad, Benitez cannot and it is all his own handiwork.

If a cornered Liverpool can come out with a win, Benitez will be the hero once more. If they do not, then the belief that he has reached a critical point in his tenure will be reinforced.

I do not believe that Benitez will lose his job if Liverpool lose on Sunday. Only a defeat of catastrophic proportions would raise a doubt and that is still unlikely in front of an Anfield gallery that will be at fever pitch because of the current difficulties.

The potential failure to reach the last 16 of the Champions League will be more damaging, along with any distance opening up between Liverpool and the Premier League's top four. Liverpool's place in that quartet is almost a non-negotiable, albeit unspoken, part of the lucrative contract Benitez signed a few months ago.

To bring some measure and perspective to the speculation swirling around Benitez, a win on Sunday would leave them only four points behind United and qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League is still on the agenda. This alone emphasises the potential for a sea change in Liverpool's season should they win on Sunday.

Owner Gillett, who has been in town to sample the speculation for himself this week, has delivered a vote of confidence that was strident in tone, perhaps helped by the potential of having to pay Benitez around £20m should he and Hicks decide to dispense with the manager's services.

And Liverpool ambassador Kenny Dalglish has insisted he knows all the Anfield top brass are steadfast in their support for the manager.

A Liverpool victory would bring calm to the troubles and a United win would inflict potentially fatal damage on a club Ferguson still sees as huge rivals.

So forget the brickbats and the beachballs. The big events will take place on the Anfield turf.

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Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This is for all the united fans to say prior to being searched ahead of entry to Anfield on Sunday, should they be searched:

    In the event of a stop and search being intrusive, unlawful or malicious I pledge to issue a formal complaint to the relevant Police Professional Standards Department.
    As these complaints are investigated by fellow police officers redress is unlikely to be forthcoming. I therefore pledge to pursue the issue through the IPCC and if the situation permits to issue civil proceedings against the chief constable or
    commissioner of the relevant police force, seeking an
    admission of liability and damages.
    Regardless of the outcome, you will have your time wasted
    for wasting mine.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good blog Phil, especially in relation to Owen's reception - seems to be the tradition these days that (with some honourable exceptions) former players of teams are booed when they return to play, no matter what the circumstances were with them leaving.

    I foresee a very close game, couldnt have come at a better time for Liverpool in my opinion given their current run, good to see G Neville adopting the sensible approach, nothing would re-ignite their season better than to win this game.....

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil why are so many supporters against Hicks and Gillett? Yes the club is in debt but surely it is Benitez they should be marching against as it's his poor team selection and subsitution that have caused the problems. Not being either fan I hope it's a good game and a Man U win.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi hpil. i think maybe that i would like to see that will liverpool might buy some quick fixes. Rava should bring in Sol Campbell for the second half of the season. a great bull of a human and a very good player still to this day. a good short fix, will add the brute stregth that liverpool lack at the defence. neck like a bull, act like a lady and you'll get a gentleman,.

    also, bring in a proven goalscroer. owen you say would be free and liverpoll should have taken a chance. but this guy never scored more than 18 PL goals in any season. maybe try Lucas Toni from Italy. Proven at high levels and scores goals. a real bull of a man who can butt peoples knees and score goals with his head.

    give the lads some different options. and look, it will but the benitez some time because without spending moeny. you can't lose, who's the loser? i don't think so where

  • Comment number 5.

    Utd have to win, will be devastated if we lose!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    If Rooney is missing for United, surely it's in the stars for Owen? A winner against City and Liverpool in the first few months at United, not a bad way to start your United career.

  • Comment number 7.

    Interesting article, although I do sense a bit of an anti-liverpol vibe. Owen will be booed and rightfully so. Yes he was good for us, but you do not move to United and expect a warm welcome for things done in the past. He forfeited that when he sighned for them. A bit nieve Phill.

  • Comment number 8.

    great article and to an extent agree that apart from a catastrophic hammering, benitez is unlikely to be sacked!

    - by the way how good was di maria against everton? quality left winger and have seen him play a few times for benefica and would be an ideal fit for Liverpool before the other big guns have a sniff of him

  • Comment number 9.

    Another bias article from Phil and his BBC colleagues. Why do the BBC and Phil McNulty insist on belittleing Sir Alex's achievements and talking up the "success" or relative merits of Liverpool and Benitez? Phil is often "accussed" of being a Liverpool fan, and this is always based on the fact he insists on writing pro-Liverpool articles, and is often critical of United.
    The facts are clear, United have a stronger squad, have won all their Champions League games, are top of the League and last seasons champions and Champions League finalists. Liverpool are struggling to keep up with the Premier League's pace setters, have a relatively poor squad, rely on a few wonderful players, have lost 2 Champions League games and more Premier League games than they did in the whole of last season. This isn't a title decider, it isn't even close. Even if United lose it won't drastically effect their title hopes, and it certainly won't effect Sir Alex's designs on a 3rd European crown.
    You got it wrong when you tipped Liverpool for the title Phil and you got it wrong when you decided to write an article about the importance of this game rather than about the reasons for Liverpool's decline or United's success in overcoming Ronaldo's departure. I for one will probably not bother with your articles any more, reading them is a waste of my time.

  • Comment number 10.

    Not a bad blog today Phil

    I am not a supporter of either the two teams and I think if Rooney is fit then there is only one winner no matter who Liverpool have in their team.

    More Importantly though, any talk of sacking Benitez is ridiculous considering out of the four games they have lost, one was Chelsea away (who I may add are favourites for the league) and another due to a beach ball! Every team has a bad patch and I really can not see this lasting too much longer, it was only a month ago they beat Hull 5-1 and they looked the real deal.

    If they were to sack him, who do you think would be best placed to replace him?



  • Comment number 11.

    With Rooney looking shaky, it looks increasingly likely Owen will feature. And it will be sweet if he is the one that shows Rafa that signing experience rather than relative unknowns is actually not such a bad idea.

  • Comment number 12.

    I acutally quite enjoyed this, good work.

    Just thinking, if Benitez and Liverpool (god forbid) do beat us on Sunday, then everyone is saying that gives him the right to be in the Liverpool hot-seat. But what if he loses the next 5 or 6? Will all this drama come up again where the ever so loyal fans once again turn their back on their manager??

  • Comment number 13.

    If Owen gets booed it will be a disgrace, he was a great servant to Liverpool and Benitez chose to sell him and then chose not to re-sign him if Benitez had offered him a contract i have no doubt he would of jumped at the chance.

    Hope he gets a good reception.

  • Comment number 14.

    I just have a gut feeling that United will lose at Anfield. There's no room for complacency for United and L'pool have everything to play for, so its going to be see-saw kind of a game. Actually all thar Liverpool have to do is keep the possession of the football and play some good firm passes to the frontline. Liverpool should go for 4-4-2 and no other system of play.

  • Comment number 15.

    Every year we all hear how Liverpool fans say "this is our season"! Every year they always give false hope. Face it, whatever the outcome is on sunday, Liverpool will never win the league under Benitez. For every good player he buys (Torres), he buys five poor ones (Dossena, Lucas, Pennant, etc, etc, etc, etc!!!).

    Come on United! 2- 0 win for United on Sunday with Owen on hand for the second.

  • Comment number 16.

    I regard this as a must win game, being a Liverpool fan. United have weakened, but are nevertheless an extremely accomlished team.

    Some Liverpool fans blame Owen for joining United, but to be fair Phil is spot on. He simply took the only opportunity that was available for him.

    Hopefully he'll get a decent reception from the Anfield crowd, as he was a senastional goalscorer who will be remembered for years to come.

  • Comment number 17.

    Liverpool will win this, they have been dreadful recently and the vultures are circling over Benitez so Sods' Law naturally says that they will pull one out against Utd, pacify the fans and keep Benitez safe for another six months!

    You can put your house on it!

  • Comment number 18.

    Liverpool have bad owners and a bad manager, whos fault are only just becoming apparent to most.

    With no last minute Gerrard lifelines Liverpool will get beat by Utd and struggle to get into the top 4.

    Man Utd 3 - 0, Owen to score a brace.

    Ps. I am a Villa fan, 2-0 against Wolves!

  • Comment number 19.

    I think it was Alan Hansen who made the point that to have season defining matches in October is a disaster in itself.

    That said to be honest I wouldn't be surprised to see Liverpool win on Sunday, United rarley produce quality performances at Anfield despite their strong recent record (five wins in seven I think it is. United's defence have looked quite shakey however intrestingly they have only conceeded two at home this season compared with seven away, and if United's defence have looked weak Liverpool's has appeared non existant at times tis season, particularly from set-pieces.

    I don't expect a classic nor indeed will it be decisive for Benitez if they lose, however, as you rightly state Beniez's main fear should be descent from below not above. This could easily become Liverpool's fourth season without silverwear in a period where United have won dominated the league and taken added a european cup to their own haul. Benitez has when it suited him pitted the fans against the owners, if he loses the fans, as the boo's on tuesday night at his decision to sub Benayoun suggested he's begining to, then he will find himself swiftly removed.

  • Comment number 20.

    Liverpool are not a title-contending team this season and never were, especially after losing Alonso. I still find it laughable that anyone, yes that means you, asserted that they had even a chance let alone were favourites based on the premise that an injury-prone Torres and Gerrard remain 100% fit for a whole season. Liverpool have not spent wisely, they have not addressed the crucial areas where they are most obviously lacking and will pay a high price this season with a mediocre finish so soon after a 2008-2009 where they came so close.

  • Comment number 21.

    #7. Is it anti-Liverpool to suggest they've been poor lately? That's basically all this blog says against Liverpool and anyone with slighlty functioning eyes and/or ears can see that to be true.

  • Comment number 22.

    Another Liverpool Blog. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo Not again. Phil seriously you are a Liverpool fan. Just admit it.

  • Comment number 23.

    The moderation on Phils blogs take far too long!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    "It does not do to question the team that sits on top of the Premier League once more, and Ferguson's faith in Manchester United's growing maturity and his strength of squad is backed up by how they have held firm as Liverpool and Chelsea have slipped recently."

    Liverpool maybe, but Chelsea? I count only two non-wins for both teams- Burnley and Sunderland for United, Wigan and Aston Villa for Chelsea. Villa are on par if not better then Sunderland, who United should have lost to, as well as their narrow escape from drawing with City. Add to that numerous average performances on both sides and I think there is parity between the two teams.

    As a Chelsea fan I hope that Liverpool achieve victory here. The odds must favour United, but if Rooney is out and Torres and Gerrard are fit, they have a chance to put their season back on track, and I hope they grab it with both hands.

  • Comment number 25.

    13. LABSAB9

    If Owen gets booed it will be a disgrace, he was a great servant to Liverpool and Benitez chose to sell him and then chose not to re-sign him if Benitez had offered him a contract i have no doubt he would of jumped at the chance.

    Hope he gets a good reception.
    --------------------------------------------------------
    For the record, I think I am right in saying that Benitez offered Owen a contract in the summer of 2004, Owen didn't sign and because there was less than 12 months on his existing contract, Liverpool sold him rather than him going on a freebie.

    Does your view change in the light of that?

  • Comment number 26.

    It might just be time the law of averages takes effect, and Benitez doesn't find his get out of jail free card on Sunday. After this game they have Arsenal away, Fulham away, and Lyon away. There's a good chance they could lose all of those games too. If that happens, they're out of the fizzy pop cup, out of the title race, and out of Europe. Will they give him more time if that happens?

  • Comment number 27.

    Good Blog Phil

    I'm just commenting as neurtal got to love no 7 and 9 each saying Phil is being nasty to there team. Man U haven't been as awesome this season as there were last is that really a controversial view? episcally when you qualifiy with but they are still top of the league ( aka the best team in th land). As for Liverpool they have lost more games this already this season than the whole of last so they aren't as good as last season, honestly lads chill out you've live longer. Good work though notice you didn't call a winner , tough I know but either a score draw or Utd to win by 1.

  • Comment number 28.

    im going sunday can't wait, despite form liverpool could win this one and change a poor start!!! anything can happen in these games!!! thts why everyone looks too see when the next one is!!! gonna be a tough game!!! if gerrard and rooney are out both will be without big game players!!! depends if anyone else can take hold of the game, midfield will be inmportant

  • Comment number 29.

    Andie99uk (post 1) So what your saying is it's okay for fans to take what could be taken for missiles into the ground? Besides most utd fans don't even know what those words mean let alone know how to say them!

  • Comment number 30.

    I am a Liverpool and neither I nor any of the other 'pool fans i know have ever assumed that "this is our season." I don't see why people think we should automatically think this when our squad is far behind the rest of the top 4, finishing 2nd last season was a massive achievement and was more than i expected.
    If we win on Sunday it will be great but I dont see how anyone can realistically expect us to win the title, its not going to happen until we either get new owners or a new manager because our current ones are mutually incompatible.
    I think anything other than a loss is a very good result for us this sunday. Im just hoping we finish in the CL spots because it is something you have to earn, its not our right.

  • Comment number 31.

    to #4. That is one of the funniest comments I've ever seen on here.
    Thanks man, you really cheered me up.

    Bonkers and brilliant.

  • Comment number 32.

    Inzywarne, Phil McNulty is an Everton fan that is a fact, not speculation that's a fact.

  • Comment number 33.

    i am also quite puzzled by the hatred towards hicks and gillet. As a united fan i am growing concerned with the levels of debt we are dealing with, and can only wish glazer would do the same, considering i feel our squad is good enough to win the premier league again. I especially dont understand the hatered when considering the cash and players benitez has squandered over the 5 years....76 players!!! that is ridiculous! that is a starting 11 and a 5 man subs bench PER YEAR!!! considering benitez's incompitence to buy a good player with considerable amounts of cash, surely it is more efficient to tell gillet and hicks to keep their money in their pocket.
    For me benitez should of got sacked a long time ago, to sign the players he has with the amount of money he has AND THEN say they cant compete for the title because he is not getting enough funds is just cheeky.

    united to win 4-1, valencia, rooneyx2, owen and and o'shea own goal

  • Comment number 34.

    While I am no fan of Gillett/Hicks, I am astounded by all this gillett/hicks bashing. IMHO Liverpool is lucky to have them as owners than a stingy board like Arsenals'. Without gillett/hicks, there would be no torres in the team and gerrard would probably have been at Chelsea by now. Clearly the issue isn't about foreign ownership since most scousers would fall over themselves to have a sheikh bankroll them. gillett/hicks have poured enough money into 'pool only to see it being wasted on mediocre players by Rafa. So why would you think that another 100MM would make a difference? Face it - Rafa blew it and deserves to go. The only reason he isn't going is because board can't afford to fire him given his 20MM guarantee. Liverpool fans have to get used to duking it out for UEFA spots with Villa and Everton! Good luck

  • Comment number 35.

    Regardless of the result on Sunday Liverpool will be stuck with Rafa until he re-signs, they simply cannot afford to sack him.

    Not only will they have to pay out a hefty compensation should they decide to part with him but could you imagine the size of the funding needed for rebuilding when the next manager comes in?

    The squad would need wholesale changes, the new man would undoubtably need tens of millions just to assemble a squad of the calibre needed to mount a serious league challenge.

    It will be interesting to see the position of Liverpool in January, maybe certain clubs will start to test the resolve of the owners with a cheeky offer for Gerrard and Torres and maybe, just maybe the Owners will be tempted to sell.


    In conclusion. Liverpool are hanging onto their champions league lives by the skin of their teeth, the league challenge is over almost before it has started, the squad is paper thin and there is no money for new players.

    Maybe starting a rebuilding program now with a new man in charge isn't such a bad idea after all.
    In all seriousness how much worse could it get? Or do you want to wait until the transfer window opens to find out?

    In any case good luck on Sunday Liverpool. I have a feeling you just might need it...

  • Comment number 36.

    You've got to love the gloating of the McFans on here.

    Short memories.

  • Comment number 37.

    You’ve made a few good points here Phil, but I think it’s a bit naive to think that Owen will get anything other than a frosty reception at Anfield on Sunday. There are some things that are unforgivable across the divide of the north-west and this is one. Even as a United fan I am still unsure of a man who played such a vital role in Liverpool teams of the past. And that’s taking into account a winner against our biggest rivals. The only thing that Owen will have on his side is that he has been professional throughout his move and hasn’t done or said anything to further antagonise the Liverpool faithful; this is stark contrast to one Carlos Tevez who got everything that was coming to him at Old Trafford in September.

    I wouldn’t normally comment, but the post by tomefccam is arguably the most ridiculous suggestion I have ever read. Bringing in a slow, sluggish, unfit central defender and a striker who has never shown any real class will do nothing but further hinder Liverpool’s progression and bring more humiliation at the door of Benitez, who has a less than impressive back catalogue of signings.

    I’d like to say I am confident of a win, but in these games nothing is certain. It would be extremely satisfying to all but condemn Liverpool to another trophy-less season and throw further doubt over their position as one of the top four teams in England.

  • Comment number 38.

    It just takes the one game to change a season:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/4068163.stm

    I'm keeping my hopes up for Sunday :)

  • Comment number 39.

    McNulty writing an article concerning Liverpool, surely not..................

  • Comment number 40.

    All these people saying Owen should get a good reception he never got a good reception when came to us with Newcastle so of course we're going to abuse him on Sunday, I will be anyway.
    He let his contract with us run down and then left for a reduced fee and Madrid were able to sell him a year later for a £12m profit.

  • Comment number 41.

    Sunday; Liverpool to lose heavily, Benitez to be sacked.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ andie99uk

    I expect the response you will get will be to refer to Section 60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which gives police the right to search people in a defined area at a specific time when they believe, with good reason, that: there is the possibility of serious violence; or that a person is carrying a dangerous object or offensive weapon; or that an incident involving serious violence has taken place and a dangerous instrument or offensive weapon used in the incident is being carried in the locality. This law has to be authorised by a senior officer and is used mainly to tackle football hooliganism and gang fights.
    Since the throwing of a beach ball onto the pitch could be construed as an act of hooliganism, which might lead to violence, I would expect the police to be well within their rights to stop and search. Still, good luck

  • Comment number 43.

    6-2 to Liverpool. I'd bet my house on it. In fact I believe a lot of people are. Must be something dodgy going on.

  • Comment number 44.

    United have weakened? Correct me if I am wrong...isn't this their best ever start to an EPL? The attitude towards Man Utd will still be the same if they win the lot...'they won the league with a workmanlike team'. Last season they lacked flair with a Cristiano who was thinking about Madrid for the most part. Let's look at the results and the 'real situation rather than the situation 'on paper'. Having said that, I tipped Arsenal pre-season and as a United fan I fear them because they have genuine quality and goals are no longer hard to come by. This could be a surprisingly good league with Liverpool nowhere to be seen...Liverpool lost a key player in Alonso and teams are more equipped to match them than they were at the end of last season when they did look like potential Champions.

  • Comment number 45.

    Quick question. Reading Lawro's predictions, will he ever get off the fence and give anything other than a 1-1 draw for a big 4 clash?
    Supporting his predictions with 'I can't see anything other than a draw here', I can't remember the last time Lawro gave either top 4 side the initiative! Moreover, it's been a while since a top 4 clash has ended with a draw. I don't think he wants to put his neck out and get it wrong. Any thoughts?

  • Comment number 46.

    Lots of people here slating Phil. The reality is that this is the headline story-Rafa's future. If he loses badly, he will get sacked and if he wins he is a hero. However if he draws or loses by 1 goal, there will still be uncertainty in the air about his Anfield future. Do you suggest Phil blog about Aston Villa vs Wolves (no disrespect meant to either supporters)?

    Personally I think it will be a draw but if Rooney is fit and plays it will be a 1-2 Man U victory

  • Comment number 47.

    People seem to be forgetting the manner in which Michael Owen left the club - he only had one year left on his contract and Benitez wasn't willing to risk letting him go on a free the next season a la Steve McManaman. Owen left without even hanging around for one season under Benitez and this is why he's had a bit of a frosty reception when returning to Anfield with Newcastle. Liverpool fans give a fantastic reception to 99% of ex-Reds, and there's always a fair reason to explain the other 1%.

  • Comment number 48.

    I dont get the protest over the owners.

    The problems on the pitch start and end with the footballing staff, that is the manager, his assistants and the players themselves.

    The manager because he insists on playing the same system as last year, which was built around a player who could distribute the ball through the leagues best defences, without having a player in his squad to fulfill that role.

    The players, because frankly some of them have been poor this year. I'm not talking of the likes of Lucas, who are simply not of a good enough standard (managers fault hes there), but both Torres and Gerard have at times been playing well below their capability, even before injury.

  • Comment number 49.

    I still believe Benitez will be history by the end of this season.The slight din that started when he substituted Benayoun midweek could rise to a higher decibel should Liverpool lose on sunday.Today one of his ex players Jermain Pennant has spoken out about the kind of strait jacket tactics Benitez imposes on his players,and to quote Pennant"how can a player be great at a small club and get to a big club like Liverpool and become poor?"
    Good question,and the answer is very simple Rafas tactics confuse his players and act as a restriction on his players natural flair.The supporters should not be directing their anger at the owners, but at a man who has been given enough time and money but has failed to take the club beyond the level where he met it.
    I am quit sure a lot of true reds are starting to understand the cruel and bitter truth that you will never win the League title with this man in charge.
    You may win smaller battles with him in charge but you will not win the war.

  • Comment number 50.

    Liverpools only answer is to spend another 50 million come the new year?
    That is their only answer, this can be offset by the sale of Gerrard at the end of the season for 25 million. Will Torres want mid table mediocrity ? Entreprenurial investors could offload Torres for £120 ? Benitez can only buy success ? Does he know another way? The only option for the owners is to make a commitment of another £50 big ones for Benitez to gulp down, will they do it?

  • Comment number 51.

    I find it laughable that people state that Owen shouldn't be booed and should only be remembered for his Liverpool contributions.
    For twelve months we heard from Owen that contract negotiations were going well.

    Contract negotiations going well and having only supposedly spoken with Madrid for 12 hours, Owen signs for them just before the start of a new season, leaving Liverpool very little time to look for a replacement. That is why he will be booed and in my opinion, quite rightly too.

  • Comment number 52.

    Bah, it would be pretty senseless for Liverpool fans to boo Owen, regardless of the rivalry. If Liverpool had made an offer for him, he'd have gone there in a heartbeat. But when you're looking for work and Man Utd come a-knocking, you don't turn them down.

    As for him winning the FA Cup in 2001, that probably has more to do with Stephan Henchoz brilliant goalkeeping ability. Previous to that game I had thought that it was only goalkeepers themselves allowed to use their hands.

    As for this weekend, if Man Utd are without Rooney, I wonder if they possess the creative talent to overcome Liverpool. If Torres and Gerrard are back at anywhere near 100% I'll lean towards a narrow Liverpool win.

    Liverpool 1 - 0 Man Utd.

  • Comment number 53.

    No Rooney and Fletcher spells trouble for United as those are the real energy guys in the team. However, their confidence is high and I can't imagine it has been lower at Liverpool in the 5/6 years Benitez has been there. If Torres is starting they're always in with a good chance to win especially given United's frailties, as you pointed out Phil.

    If Rooney and Flethcer are out expect big games from Berbatov and Carrick and if Valencia keeps improving I think he has the muscle and pace to beat Insua. However, I'd probably start Valencia on the right as Nani isn't known for his defensive ability and Johnson will definitely be providing some width.

    Loads of buzz around this game, as there always is, I'm going for a 3-1 United win - revenge for last year's Old Trafford drubbing which I'm sure Sir Alex won't let his players forget.

  • Comment number 54.

    At #52

    My bad. Was confused between the League Cup and FA Cup of that year. Ignore me!

  • Comment number 55.

    A march against the owners?

    Why- They have given Rafa the money and he has spent it on players like Lucas, Keane (lost money on the deal) and an injured player.
    Those were his decisions and you march against the owners.
    I asked who shuold own Liverpool?
    March against the one in charge, Rafa but I am glad you support Rafa, he will never win the title regardless who owns the team. Remember he bought Lucas.
    The CL win was not even his team, when he had a chance to buy...what happened.
    Blue is the color

  • Comment number 56.

    Rafael Benitez says he still retains hopes that Steven Gerrard will be fit. This has got to be a massive gamble if true surely? He looked miles away from full fitness on Tuesday against Lyon and a recurrence, or aggravation, could mean an extended spell on the sidelines.

    Let's hear from both sets of fans on this one. Liverpool fans, where can your team do serious damage to United, and can they still win even if Gerrard does not play? I know you did last season, but players of the quality of Xabi Alonso and Robbie Keane were in the line-up then, so the situation has altered.

    I ask the same question to United fans. And how badly would Rooney's absence affect your chances?

    By the way, apologies on the slow moderation. I have drawn it to the attention of those responsible, so hopefully it is in hand. I know it's frustrating when we want to get a debate going.

  • Comment number 57.

    #15 "Every year we all hear how Liverpool fans say "this is our season"!
    -----------------------------
    Actually it is every year that I hear United fans saying "Every year we all hear how Liverpool fans say "this is our season"!

  • Comment number 58.

    In all seriousness Sunday is a win-win situation for all Red Devils.

    1: Win the game - happy days

    2: Lose and that clown Rafa keeps his kudos and his job a lot longer.

    When he arrived Benitez was the right man for Anfield, Scousers had their reservations but to those outside he looked like a good choice after just a couple of games. Fast Forward to 2009 and he's taken Liverpool as far as he can. He is not a Wenger or a Ferguson or even a Morinho. Nor is he a Shankley or a Paisley.

    Liverpool fans can stay loyal to him as long as they like. Red Devils! Kettle on, sit back and relax. A fiver on Owen to score!

  • Comment number 59.

    As a Liverpool fan, the Owen issue is not so much with him joining United- as you point out, by far the best option available to him- but with his having jumped ship to Real for a cut-price fee having run down his contract. That's why, despite the goals, he hasn't been Anfield's long-lost favoured son when he's returned in the past.

    In the cauldron on Sunday, with heightened emotions, I'm sure he will get a noisier reception- as any ex-LFC player lining up for United would, and vice versa.

    As for sacking Rafa- at 200 league games, he's got a better record than Ferguson, Wenger, Paisley and Shankly had at the same stage. What would have happened if they'd all been sacked at that point?

    And none of them had to contend with two penniless truth-twisters in charge of their club. Everyone can see mistakes- but surely everyone can also acknowledge such an impressive record when they come across it!

  • Comment number 60.

    #4 tomefccam

    Sol Campbell and Luca Toni are the answer to Liverpools problems.....you should have your own blog on here as I would ready every single post!!!

    Absolutely amazing and priceless!!!!

  • Comment number 61.

    To that bloke who wants Liverpool to "buy" Sol Campbell and Luca Toni.

    We are having a whip round at Old Trafford and we'd like to donate Ben Foster, Bryan Robson and Clayton Blackmore as well.

    If you are looking for a winger how about Ralph Milne?

  • Comment number 62.

    To All Man U Fans,

    Have fun while it lasts, come Sunday you'll know why "This is Anfield". Torres will make Ferdinand look like Younes Kaboul.

  • Comment number 63.

    36. At 3:43pm on 23 Oct 2009, BeyondThePale wrote:
    You've got to love the gloating of the McFans on here.

    Short memories.

    ======================

    what exactly are "McFans" then?

  • Comment number 64.

    I have nothing witty to say today as I am being grumpy for Children In Need, however, I would just like to point out to the United fans, there are numerous places a deflated beach ball or balloon can be secreted (if you can be arsed, excuse the pun. hahaha, they can't be serious can they? they are banning their own merchandise from their own stadium, totally barking.

  • Comment number 65.

    looking forward to the game. of course i'm hoping for a draw with lots of injuries XD.

    it's a really hard one to call. we don't know if rooney/gerrard/torres will play yet. both these teams a habbit of winning when they don't deserve to and neither have played that well in the last few games.

    i predict a draw with united coming from behind late on. i have 2-2 on 'i know the score'. i'll stick with that.

    let's hope it's a great game.

  • Comment number 66.

    It seems to take that long for these posts to get moderated sometimes discussions are stifled and you just end up getting a series of statements. Anyway my statement..... :)

    Since Rafa been in charge Liverpool have spent the following compared to Utd:

    Gross spend: LFC - £247,730,000; Utd - £188,650,000
    Gross sales: LFC - £134,080,000; Utd - £188,650,000
    Net Spend: LFC - £113,650,000; Utd - £27,600,000

    On average Benitez has spent £18,941,667 compared to Fergie's £4,600,000 a season since he became manager.

    In that period the big players Utd have signed still with the club are: Rooney, Nani, Carrick, Hargreaves, Anderson, Berbatov, Vidic, Evra, Da Silva twins, Valencia, Foster, Van Der Sar and of course Owen. 14 prudent signings that LFC had equal chance of getting as Utd.

    Why didn't Rafa secure any of the above? He has spent MORE than Utd in the same period but apart from Torres & Reina he brought in dross. Worse than just bringing in dross was that he paid reasonable big sums for dross and lost money selling the dross on. I'll exclude Keane from the dross category but LFC lost over £1.2m a MONTH on him as a signing. No football club/business can afford that type of waste!

    Rafa has only himself to blame for LFC current predicament and while a Utd win at the wkd is by no means certain a defeat will not end our season, can the same be said of Liverpool?

    If Liverpool fail to qualify for CL next year I assure you Torres WILL be sold, most likely Gerrard too unless some City type squillionaire steps forward. If this doesn't happen I can see Liverpool falling down the league rapidly ala Leeds.

    As a Utd fab believe it or not i actually don't want this, the two games against LFC are our most anticipated games of the season. Euphoric highs when we win and total depression if we lose (like last year).

    Although yes I am chuckling at what appears to be the annual early Xmas pantomine at Anfield. ;)

    ps. Stats on expenditure courtesy of transferleague.co.uk.

  • Comment number 67.


    Be very afraid.
    As a United fan I can tell you that we have not played that well this season. Defensive mistakes, no real midfield defensive cover for the back 4 and mix and match attacking pairs. We will get better as the season goes on yet we are top of the Prem and 9 out of 9 in the Champs League. I don't subscribe to the myth that last season was a close race. I seem to remember sending a reserve team to Hull and resting players for the Champs League big games. Liverpool did well but were never going to win it. Any title challenge based on two world class yet injury prone players being fit for the entire season is doomed to failure. Liverpool have no strength in depth, their best defender is knocking on a bit and can't recover if turned and worst of all they have allowed the crown jewels to be frittered away.
    I refer to Liverpools academy.
    There is not a team in the country who have not got a scouser in their ranks. Merseyside is the greatest breeding ground for footballers in the country and I support United. Benitz sacked Heighway and replaced him with two spaniards one of whom does not speak english. Can you tell me what a spaniard knows about Merseyside football?
    Liverpool are doomed. They can't pay off Benitz because he signed a 5 year contract 6 months ago. The turnover had not kept up with the other big 4 and therefore funding is difficult, they need a new stadium and even the beachballs are against them.
    It was fun for the last 20 years but it looks like we need a new challenge. City will do.

  • Comment number 68.

    #56 Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:

    By the way, apologies on the slow moderation. I have drawn it to the attention of those responsible, so hopefully it is in hand. I know it's frustrating when we want to get a debate going.
    --------------------------------------------
    That's ok Phil. Simply take away the pre-moderation so it is in line with almost all other sports blogs on here.

    Or, get someone to explain the editorial line that means that your blog is pre-moderated where others aren't.

    That can't be difficult can it......

  • Comment number 69.

    Nothing against Rooney or United (well maybe a little against United) but i hope Rooney doesn't play.

    With the problems we have with injuries at the moment, we need all the luck and help we can get.

    I'm not expecting anything from the game even though were at home, i just don't know what Liverpool is going to do next on or off the pitch.

  • Comment number 70.

    Interesting point of view, Phil. I think if Benetez looses on Sunday, with one half of the ownership trying to sell, You will Benetez dissappear very quick. I would say the boss is in town, not to see Man Utd V Liverpool but to get answers to what the hell is going on at Anfield.
    I have re-iterated many times my opinion about Owen and the other night vindicted those thoughts I feel. He was in short a waste of space, too slow, too hesitant, too small. If he gets 10 goals this year in the league I will be very surprised. In a nutshell however if Torres is playing I think Liverpool will win. Vidic is not having a great time of it this year either.

  • Comment number 71.

    United's better squad enables Ferguson to only use fit players whereas Liverpool's dependence upon Torres and Gerrard mean that Benitez will always take risks with their fitness. How will Benitez prioritise between the Champions League and the Premier League ? Interesting times ahead for Liverpool fans. Rooney will obviously be missed but United can still win without him. Valencia and Nani both had good games on Wednesday night. 3-1 to United with Darren Fletcher as man of the match. Does anyone think that Torres regrets not signing for United when he had the chance a few years ago ?

  • Comment number 72.

    Fair play to the Spirit of Shankly protest. Liverpool is more than a club, it is a cultural icon of Liverpool and English football. It should not be a monetary toy of investors.

    It is about time the plastics (around 70% of the population) woke up, started believing in real values, eating real food and drinking real ale. The Revolution is nigh, may the best team win on Sunday, and may that team be United.

  • Comment number 73.

    As for the ommission of Rooney, no problem for United, but the inclusion of Gerrard and Torres might be a huge problem for them. I would say Raffa would be stupid to risk Gerrard for this match and then loose him for the next 4.

  • Comment number 74.

    36. BeyondThePale

    Gotta love your continual use of the phrase 'McFans' to describe Manchester United fans. I've done a bit of research and discovered:
    a) Liverpool has corporate hospitality too (they even serve prawn sarnies)
    b) Liverpool has supporters clubs in places OTHER than Liverpool (gasp!)
    c) Liverpool has a club shop and sells merchandise around the world (shock, horror!)
    d) Liverpool have fans who live more than a two mile radius from the stadium! (No seriously, it's true)
    e) Liverpool FC offers corporate sponsorship packages! (McUnbelievable!!!)

    For the record, I think your use of 'McFans' just makes you look extremely snobby ("how dare non-scousers love my club!!" "How dare my club try to make as much money as possible!"). Maybe you can explain what you mean by it? Because I have a sneaking suspicion that all of your 'reasons' will be equally applicable to Liverpool/Chelsea/Real Madrid fans too.


  • Comment number 75.

    I put extremely little stock, no matter how justifiable, in claims of Man Utd being unconvincing this season. They were pretty unconvincing for large parts of last season too and it didn't prevent them from sweeping to another Premiership title. The old adage of 'winning when you're playing badly' is something that Man Utd absolutely excel at where others teams fail, barring Chelsea (thought still not consistantly there).

    No, I think those kind of claims are straws being clung to by other supporters. Plain and simple, Liverpool will need to considerably up their game to get a victory here...and even if that is achieved, not then fall asleep as usual and drop points to lesser clubs shortly afterwards.

    It should be a tremendous game.

  • Comment number 76.

    16. At 2:41pm on 23 Oct 2009, fernando999 wrote:

    Some Liverpool fans blame Owen for joining United, but to be fair Phil is spot on. He simply took the only opportunity that was available for him.

    He could have signed for Stoke! :-)

  • Comment number 77.

    PHil can't you just do what robbo does? for crying out loud, he has 511 comments that are published seconds after they are written.

  • Comment number 78.

    No one has yet mentioned the "come back when you've won 18" banner displayed when United went to Anfield after winning the first ever premiership in 93. Win, lose or draw, the satisfaction for United fans simply of turning up level on titles is massive. When you throw all in the other stuff it makes for an incredible fixture this early in the season.

    As a United fan I'm hoping to beat scousers on sunday but going to Anfield level on 18 titles and condemning them to a 5th straight defeat while consolidating our position at the top of the table would clearly be too perfect.

    1-1.

  • Comment number 79.

    "Since the throwing of a beach ball onto the pitch could be construed as an act of hooliganism, which might lead to violence"

    A beach ball is the weapon I would choose above all others if I wanted to hurt someone badly (and I don't mean their feelings).

    I wish these supporters would have a sense of humour. It is only a game after all.

  • Comment number 80.

    With regards to Michael Owen, I think are ambiguous at the moment towards him. I don't think he'll be booed, he carried us for many a season with his ratio of goals/games. But you don't sign for United and still expect to be welcomed back to Anfield with open arms, so it'll be a mixed reception if its not complete silence that greets his announcement.

    I can see Liverpool rallying in this game, a draw and a good performance would be enough to stabelise (sp?) Benitez position and hopefully stop the rot.

    A United win though would no doubt about it be fatal to any lingering hopes of the premiership.

    I'd like to see some Benitez reaction if we do win this game, just so we know he understands just how important this is in his Liverpool tenure, but I doubt it.. I'll have to look towards Sammy Lee instead :)

  • Comment number 81.

    I agree with the blog Phil. However if United inflict defeat on Liverpool and if they fail to qualify for the last 16 of the champs league, I really think Benitez should either leave or be sacked. He has had over 5 years now to build a squad of real quality. He has a first team of quality, one through to 11 but when I look at liverpools bench on sunday, it will make me laugh when compared to the likes of United, Chelsea and even Spurs and Man City! His transfers dealings have by and large been a massive failure, his once celebrated "Tactical nouse" has been replaced with very strange decisions and he is unable to manipulate the media in the same way fergie and mourinho can and could.

    Liverpool need a new leader and a new set of owners. If the rumoured take over by Saudi Oil Merchants is true, then this is the best way forward for the scousers. I respect the liverpool fans for being extremely loyal to Rafa, but I am becoming more and more convinced that this trust has been misplaced, and change is needed at Anfield, from the team the whole way up to management and owners.

  • Comment number 82.

    Anyone not troubled by the debts of both Utd and Liverpool must have been on the board at Northern Rock, if either team fails to reach the CL next season (or equally major failures in all cups this year) their debts will spiral to untenable levels, leaving their true owners (the banks) no option but to sell up.
    Arsenal on the other hand, manage their money properly (if only the govt had their accountants, the country would be in far better shape), whilst both Chelsea and City have benefactors who are rich enough to bank roll practically anything they want.

    As for the impending game, if Owen plays I hope the Liverpool fans give him the reception he deserves (a good one), other than that I just hope the ref is fair and the match is worth watching.

  • Comment number 83.

    my god, will you all STOP thinking that phil is constantly against your team. im a man united fan, do i think phil is anti-united? no. because he isnt, he tells it how it is. he believed liverpool were gonna win the title - fair play to him. doesnt automatically make him completely biased against everyone else.
    so all of you who go on and on and on about how phil is biased every single blog- give it a rest, its getting very boring.

    good blog as ever phil. completely agree about owen's reception. i thought the way our fans treated tevez earlier this season was pretty disgraceful.

  • Comment number 84.

    Its gonna be high tempo game from the off no doubt about that!
    Even if Rooney is out I cant see SAF selecting Michael Owen in his first XI. In saying that, it would ironic for Mr Owen to grace the Anfield pitch at some point in the game and come-up trumps with a winning goal. Itll be closer than many may expect, never the less I see United winning.

  • Comment number 85.

    #7 - What was Owen supposed to do, sign for Hull? What professional footballer in his right mind wouldn't have signed for Man U in his situation and stage of career? I think booing ex-players just makes them play harder so it's counter-productive and very dumb. I wish some West Ham fans would stop barracking Lampard - perhaps he'd give us an easier time!
    I'm willing to bet that at least one beach ball finds its way onto the pitch - I certainly hope so. There should be a special prize awarded to the successful 'smuggler'.
    I know the Man U fans have lined up a rendition of '99 Red Balloons', but maybe 'Rubber Ball I Come Bouncing Back to You', 'Beach Baby', 'Ball of Confusion' or some Beach Boys' classics?
    So two 'súper clásicos' to enjoy in one day - the Mexican equivalent is on Sunday, too: América v Chivas. However, as with all these type of games, they are often rather turgid affairs.

  • Comment number 86.

    I remember Micheal Owen at Liverpool... He was WORSHIPED. Even Families called there new born baby boys Own after him. Yes.. They loved him that much....

    Now he plays for United and that must really hurt. The young Owens will have grown up now and will be in the KOP come Sunday wit the rest of the KOPITES.

    AND I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING TO SEE HIM SCORE THE WINNER IN FRONT OF THAT KOP FOR UNITED AND WATCH HIM CELEBRATE WITH HIS NEW UNITED TEAM MATES KISSIG HIS ED DEVIL BADGE.

  • Comment number 87.

    In the past 5 years United have never scored more than a single goal at Anfield. I remember them winning when totaally outplayed with a last minute winner. O'Shea scoring the winner I think. Even when United were dominant in the past 3 years, they have never won convincingly at Anfield. I think the tide has reversed and Liverpool now have the better of United.
    I predict a 3-1 win for Liverpool

  • Comment number 88.

    9. inzywarne
    Another bias article from Phil and his BBC colleagues. Why do the BBC and Phil McNulty insist on belittleing Sir Alex's achievements and talking up the "success" or relative merits of Liverpool and Benitez? Phil is often "accussed" of being a Liverpool fan, and this is always based on the fact he insists on writing pro-Liverpool articles, and is often critical of United.
    The facts are clear, United have a stronger squad, have won all their Champions League games, are top of the League and last seasons champions and Champions League finalists. Liverpool are struggling to keep up with the Premier League's pace setters, have a relatively poor squad, rely on a few wonderful players, have lost 2 Champions League games and more Premier League games than they did in the whole of last season. This isn't a title decider, it isn't even close. Even if United lose it won't drastically effect their title hopes, and it certainly won't effect Sir Alex's designs on a 3rd European crown.
    You got it wrong when you tipped Liverpool for the title Phil and you got it wrong when you decided to write an article about the importance of this game rather than about the reasons for Liverpool's decline or United's success in overcoming Ronaldo's departure. I for one will probably not bother with your articles any more, reading them is a waste of my time.

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

    You are ridiculous. No one is 'belittling' (spell check included, mind you) Man U. It is you, that is belittling Liverpool. It is a clear statistic that Liverpool beat United both at home and away last year, lost fewer games, but tied more. That was the difference between the two teams. Liverpool are only 7 points away from the top, that is hardly anything to be alarmed about, specially with more competition. We hope you don't keep reading so we don't have to your your outrageous replies!

  • Comment number 89.

    by the way might I point out that since you have started blogging this season, it's main City United Liverpool chelsea and England. One blog has bolton in title the rest are as above.
    Could we have some info opinion comment debate, about Villa, Spurs, The bottom 6, by any chance, because it's getting a bit repetitive. yes United play better than last season, Liverpool are no longer top 4, Ancellotti has a big eyebrow and mark hughes is a cheeky monkey with lots of cash. I would like to hear from other fans and about other clubs please! I am a Man Utd Fan too.

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • Comment number 91.

    56. Phil McNulty - BBC Sport wrote:
    By the way, apologies on the slow moderation. I have drawn it to the attention of those responsible, so hopefully it is in hand. I know it's frustrating when we want to get a debate going.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    One question? Why doesn't the BBC get one automated, computerized moderating that blurbs anything that isn't appropriate. Surely, the BBC can afford (and in the long run is probably less expensive) then this low-lives moderators you currently have.

  • Comment number 92.

    It will be a tough match, but United will win. We have a better squad with more options - not to mention revenge for last season.

  • Comment number 93.

    andie99uk. I would have thought you would have been in favour of the safety of the fans. Let's hope Ferguson gets his just desserts, and a nice thrashing at the hands Liverpool.

  • Comment number 94.

    collie21 - you deserve a nice, juicy bone for that comment. Ok, it's the Big One this weekend so a blog about it was expected, but blogs about the Top Four, and the subsequent "my club's better/richer/more successful than yours" debates/slanging matches are getting really tiresome.

  • Comment number 95.

    I'm not a new member.

  • Comment number 96.

    "As for sacking Rafa- at 200 league games, he's got a better record than Ferguson, Wenger, Paisley and Shankly had at the same stage. What would have happened if they'd all been sacked at that point? "

    But I believed Rafa also spent more than those mangers COMBINED in those first 5-6 years. Of course it's hard to compare transfer prices but I can tell you the only good singing Rafa has ever made were Torres and at most Benayoun. Everyone else that he's bought has already left the club or are currently not performing.

    The two American owners may not have been the sugar daddy everyone thought they would be, but they weren't the ones who decided which players to buy or how the team plays football - that's the manager. And the supporters turns against the owners instead?

    Rafa has cunningly negotiated himself a 20m 5-year deal on the back of a second place finish in the league last season. It's a win-win situation for him: He can do whatever the heck he wants for a couple years and he would be bought out with a handsome balance in his bank. If Liverpool doesn't sack him citing the financial penalties then Rafa can keep his job.

    Lose-Lose situation for Liverpool fans...

  • Comment number 97.

    Liverpool fans just have to accept what Arsenal fans did last season - the club is not strong enough to win trophies. Both Liverpool and Arsenal are good teams, two of the best in the world, but far from challenging for the highest prices. Pool though, do not have the quality of players that arsenal has. Infact 6 or 7 of the pool players are average for any league, on average they are below thier opposite numbers in Villa colours on ability. The remaining two or three are truely world class though. The funny thing is that the pool fans are planning to vent their dissaffection on the two Americans. Look at how the American's money has been spent: Babel 10m? Keane 18m? Johnson 15m? Aqiullani 20m? Surely, you cannot waste the American's money like that and then blame them for the club's failure!

  • Comment number 98.

    "...but how about some respect from The Kop for a magnificent servant to Liverpool?"

    Are you joking? I mean, you can't actually be serious. Wait.. you are.

    What in the world..

    After all that Owen's done. He was a hero at Anfield. Then he decided to leave for Real to win the Champions League. He forced Liverpool into selling him for only £8 million which at the time was a ridiculous fee for a player of his quality. It should have been around at least £18 million. Liverpool were in no position to hang onto him, he had a year left on his contract.

    Then what happens after he fails to break into the Real Madrid starting 11 and fell down the pecking order after the signings of Robinho and Baptista? Instead of holding Madrid at ransom and claiming he would only move to Liverpool, he moves to Newcastle for more than double the fee Madrid paid for me - a fee Liverpool were obviously never going to pay. Still, at this point he was held in high regard amongst most of the Anfield faithful, most of us remembering how much of a hero he was.

    It has always been clear his main priority has always been England. And that could not have been MORE clear when he decided to complete tear his remaining affiliations to the club and move to arch-rivals United. He lost all his remaining fans and many at United are STILL undecided on him. Many still see him a Liverpool player.

    He obviously has no respect for Liverpool Football Club and its fans, so why should they should him any respect?

    Think before you put something like that in your article.

  • Comment number 99.

    "Rose Tinted Glasses"

    It must be a trait that all UTD fans have. They can't see past there past glories. I think Benitez will be laughing his socks off if "Owen" adn Neville are starting on Sunday. In essence they are not very good and all in all UTD are not very good. I see Torre's running both Ferdy and Vidic all over the park, and Chuckle bother struggling also.

    Bolton made UTD look average last week, Burnley and Sunderland also and I can honestly see UTD slipping out of the top 4 over the next 3 months. "You can only ride luck a certain length of the journey" it will run out at Anfield.

    "You will Never Walk alone"

  • Comment number 100.

    I think Owen was dead to many Liverpool fans years ago. Signing for United was just an additional betrayal. (And I do agree that he won the FA Cup for Liverpool against Arsenal almost single handed). But in chasing glory in Madrid he lost the right to be remembered as a true Liverpool great and most Real Madrid fans have probably forgotten he ever played for them.

    I think Liverpool might win this one but I dont think it will make much difference to our season. We do miss Alonso and maybe Aquilani wont be a success. But what I can't understand is if we were a 2 man team last season, how can losing Alonso make a difference. Maybe we were a three man team last season! I think I even heard a commentator say how much we missed Mascherano in a match earlier this season. So maybe we were a four man team last season... Well you get the point.

    Liverpool are struggling at the moment but the criticism Benitez gets is out of all proportion. If you compare transfer prices man for man between Liverpool and united it isn't even close. Benitez has had to gamble on 7 or 8 million pound players and its true many of those gamble didn't pay off but some have. And as for zonal marking, well you would think he had invented it in a pact with the devil, the way most commentators talk about it. "I never saw a zone score a goal" has to be one of the cleverest sounding stupid comments in football history.

    What was this blog about? Oh yeah, I remember. As a Liverpool fan I would settle for fourth place right now. Its a very competitive league, and with the lack of a bigger stadium, Liverpool probably need the Champions League revenue more than any of the other challengers, with the way the club finances are set up. But I think we will improve but not enough to finish better than third.

 

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