BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty
« Previous | Main | Next »

Man Utd increase Benitez agony

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 21:01 UK time, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Rafael Benitez has fallen a long way in 53 weeks - from inflicting humiliating defeat on Manchester United at Old Trafford to suffering what might just be the ultimate indignity for a Liverpool manager.

If Liverpool needed any further confirmation that times are hard at Anfield it came in the shape of Sir Alex Ferguson's magnanimous declaration that he felt "a twinge of sympathy" for his old adversary Benitez. This is almost a neon sign that things are bad.

And Liverpool's colourless display in defeat at United - where they won 4-1 in spectacular style last season - was a painful illustration of why Ferguson felt safe in bestowing some uncharacteristic goodwill on Benitez.

The phoney peace between two managers who conducted a public feud last season lasted only 11 explosive minutes at Old Trafford. Ferguson and Benitez were at each other's throats, almost literally, in the technical area as normal service was resumed.

Sir Alex Ferguson (facing camera) and Rafa Benitez shake hands at the end of the matchFerguson and Benitez rarely see eye to eye when Manchester United play Liverpool - photo: PA

The flashpoint was Wayne Rooney's equaliser after Pepe Reina had saved his penalty, contentiously awarded by referee Howard Webb after prolonged holding on Antonio Valencia by Javier Mascherano.

It came after Fernando Torres revived a recurring nightmare for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic by heading Liverpool into an early lead - but that was as good as it got for Benitez and his team.

Benitez leaned heavily on sarcasm in his after-match inquest, especially when it was suggested Ferguson might have used his Friday media briefing to make a psychological point when he claimed Liverpool had been fortunate in disciplinary matters this season.

"Just on Friday? Which Friday? This Friday or every Friday?" retorted Benitez.

"We know the influence of Sir Alex in everything" was another of several sideswipes aimed at Ferguson as Benitez's unhappiness at the penalty award became ever more obvious.

As a shield against Liverpool's current inferiority to United, it did not amount to much and Benitez's suggestion that Valencia had dived to earn the penalty had almost a whiff of desperation.

United were hardly sparkling in victory, sealed by Ji-Sung Park's brave second half header. It was all too tight and tense for that, but they were superior to a Liverpool side whose lack of ambition has become an ugly hallmark of their displays away from Anfield.

True, it was Liverpool's third game in short order and tired legs were an inevitable consequence, but there was an ominous lack of ideas and invention after the hope generated by Torres' towering header.

If the attacking verve and positive intent of last season's victory at Old Trafford was to be a template for title success this season, Benitez has mislaid it somewhere.

Rooney's industry and ability to pull United's strands together, bringing wide men Nani and Valencia into play, was the key to a victory that was greeted with wild celebrations inside Old Trafford as a run of three successive league defeats against Liverpool ended.

Ferguson marched off at the final whistle with some rapid-fire fist pumping to the Stretford End, emphasising that one of the most potentially hazardous hurdles in United's title run-in had been successfully overcome.

Liverpool harboured hopes of being in that shake-up this season - some misguided fools even tipped them for the title - but priorities have been adjusted. As Ferguson helpfully pointed out in his programme notes "they still retain hope of a top-four finish to ensure Champions League football for next season."

Benitez may yet claim silverware in the Europa League, but he and his team have been a massive disappointment and the decline since that superb win at Old Trafford is stark. He now faces a huge fight to fulfil his "guarantee" of fourth place, and what appears to be diminishing faith in his methods will only intensify if he fails.

Steven Gerrard and Torres were the twin towers of last season's triumph as they tormented United. From unconfined joy on 14 March 2009 to abject frustration on 21 March 2010.

Torres has made a habit of terrorising United, and Vidic in particular, but after a blistering start he became bogged down in bickering and banter with referee Webb and the officials that eventually reduced him to a squabbling by-stander.

Antonio Valencia goes down under challenge from Javier MascheranoThe foul on Antonio Valencia was a crucial moment in the match at Old Trafford - photo: AP

It was to Liverpool and Torres' detriment that he allowed himself to become side-tracked.
Old Trafford lives in fear of this wonderful striker, an audible hum of concern sweeping around the stadium each time he took possession in dangerous territory.

Torres felt the pain of Liverpool's perceived misfortune acutely, going through a full range of angry gestures, petulantly scraping away at the penalty spot before Rooney stepped up and eventually earning a yellow card for a poor challenge on Park.

Whether Torres' cantankerous behaviour was an indicator of wider discontent with Liverpool's plight is open to question, but at least his fired-up approach was in sharp contrast to Gerrard's timid display.

For so long the inspiration, Gerrard was desperately poor, virtually anonymous and unable to provide the support for Torres that unhinged United last season.

With Mascherano and Lucas lacking any creative spark to compensate for Gerrard's listlessness, it meant Liverpool never hinted at any danger until a last-minute chance wasted first by Torres, then Yossi Benayoun.

Jamie Carragher's confrontation with Rooney was a compelling cameo, but Liverpool had too many weak links in key areas to deserve anything from a game that was not rich in quality.

Valencia's rapid development has been a feature of United's return to the top of the Premier League. He shone again - but was grateful for the assistance offered by the hopeless duo occupying Liverpool's left flank.

Emiliano Insua has youth on his side, but clearly not a grasp of positioning and basic defending. The Argentine's problems were worsened by the lack of assistance from Maxi Rodriguez, who is yet to offer any hard evidence to support why Benitez felt the need to sign him in January.

United, and Valencia in particular, probed the flaw ruthlessly and it was no surprise that Park's winner was the result of Fletcher's cross from that vicinity.

Fletcher and Park were crucial components of United's win. The Scot has grown into a highly-accomplished midfield operator, and Ferguson was swift to point out that Liverpool's three recent successes against his side have all co-incided with Fletcher's absence.

Meanwhile, Park's importance to United is underlined by Ferguson's habit of picking him for their most vital games. The South Korean offers work-rate, tactical discipline and now even goals.

At the start of the season, I stated that Ferguson could regard a title win this season as one of his finest achievements after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

He has not replaced Ronaldo - how could he? - but United have already scored more league goals than last term and Rooney's tally of 33 in all competitions has been helped by a constant supply line from the flanks.

This time last year Liverpool looked to have found a formula to mount a challenge to United's supremacy. Not so - and unless Liverpool finish in the top four, Benitez may not get another chance to rediscover it.

You can follow me throughout this season at and join me on Facebook.


Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Phil, if you were the Liverpool board you'd be hoping Real were still interested in Benitez wouldn't you!? And then laugh all the way to the bank when they take him off your hands!

  • Comment number 2.

    It's all fair enough, Phil, but how about putting it in context. Liverpool are no longer Man United's real competitors - and the race between the 'Big Three' is getting more fascinating game by game. I can understand your desire not to talk about the reality of Arsenal's challenge, given how many times you've written them off this year, but just a sideways mention could put the whole Liverpool/Man United thing in context...

  • Comment number 3.

    Liverpool have lost the plot. Gerrard's attitude recently tells us he's had enough of all these defensive line ups and ugly 'grind out a result' football Rafa's reverted to so often now as he desperately tries to get 4th spot.

    He's lost the dressing room IMO, Riera's bust up being further evidence of that after Babel's tweeting earlier in the season.

    Time to go Rafa.

  • Comment number 4.

    Easy win for Man Utd.

  • Comment number 5.

    So I came in fourth...

  • Comment number 6.

    Liverpool were desperately poor in the game. They actually are a very pale shadow of the team that nearly nicked the title last season. Had hoped they would have done the Gooners a favor though...pity.

  • Comment number 7.

    It happens time and time again where united are written off, even at the start of the season but time and time again fergie proves them all wrong.
    I think fletcher could be the key in other big games this season aswell i.e. chelsea, bayern and other big games.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the pen was a very very bad decision. The foul was committed outside the box, if the ref is playing advantage can he then pick and choose himself what punishment is neccessary. There is no question that Mascherano had tugged at him but when he gets in the box there is very little contact and Valencia could have stayed on his feet but he chose to fling himself down, very reminiscent of the 'snake coil' that Van Nistelcheat used to practice there.

    Given that there was covering defenders the decision to show him only yellow was a good one.

    What about the Vermaelen and Steinson sendings off, ridiculous or what? Even the Whitehead sending off was overly overly harsh.

    Shouldnt Fletcher have seen red for his behaviour towards Kuyt? If that wasnt violent conduct i dont know what is. I dont think you have to actually strike a player to warrant getting punished. Swinging your arm at him wildly and pushing and being overly aggressive is enough for me.

    Poor decisions all round this weekend.

  • Comment number 9.

    One penalty spot for sale, apply to the Lady in Red, Liverpool!

  • Comment number 10.

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

  • Comment number 11.

    #8 SensibleSoccer - you have summed it up perfectly.
    And for some bizarre reason, the violent conduct by Fletcher was not
    shown or even mentioned on MoTD.

  • Comment number 12.

    I do think Torres should get a retrospective ban for improper conduct or conduct unbecoming of a professional or whatever you want to call it.

    His pen spot dummy spitting was ridiculous.

  • Comment number 13.

    I thought the Penalty against Mascherano was harsh too, so i'm not going to be all acrid against Benitez.
    Agreed his tactics haven't really been clear to the supporter this season
    but when have his tactics ever really been clear?
    Gerrard doesnt look like coming close to last seasons levels
    where are his last minute scorchers that used to put liverpool up at the death?
    where is that spark?
    Torres looked short of supply and if you look at the stats of the game you have your answer
    Utd outplayed liverpool in midfield and it was no surprise that Utd got more goals, coz clear and simple they had more of the ball
    and the little that liverpool did have the ball of in midfield, they did little good with it.
    the Title is now Utd's to lose

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't know what Rafa is ranting about now. But to say Valencia Dived is dam right OUTRAGEOUS!!! I feel it was fair enough to give the penalty and Mascarano was a lucky man to stay on the field. Also Torres was walking a tight line in that game too I feel the FA should punish him for kicking out at United Penalty spot. It was unsportsman like.

    The game overall I thought United played OK (not amazing) I also thought Liverpool played a good game, but United was far to good for them in the second half and should have gone on and scored a third.

    Well done to United for grinding out this result... The Chelsea draw was also fantastic for them and they now have to hold on to this for dear life if they want to get this 19th title but they also have to be aware of Arsenal who are looking stong with an easier run in....

  • Comment number 15.

    What was Torres doing kicking the pitch up? Surely thats worth a looking at by the FA?
    But they wont, because its Liverpool...Its unsportsmanlike conduct.
    Liverpool will finish out of the CL places because they dont deserve one. They have not played well enough.
    Just as if Hull City go down, it will be because we didnt win enough games.
    Lifes hard, get on with it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Watched the game as a neutral hoping to be entertained. I wasn't. Liverpool are so poor compared to 12 months ago like Phil said. Man U didnt even have to get out of 2nd gear to beat them. Most games I watch on sky now are god-awful

  • Comment number 17.

    An obvious cynical view from McNulty yet again.

    Here is the truth however:

    There is no doubt that the penalty decision, which should have been a free kick, swung this game in favour of United. Webb continued to suffer from Old Trafford influence for the rest of the match.

    Other than that it was a very tight affair with few chances, which is entirely expected from the teams in these circumstances.

    After United went one up they went to a defensive 4-5-1 and effectively killed the game, so there is no blaming Liverpool for a lack of creativity thereafter.

    The fair result was 1-1. Unfortunately, the referee made the difference.

  • Comment number 18.

    #11 cloughtheking

    I thank you.

    Not because of your praise but because there are very few intelligent people around these days, just biased morons and i am sure my comments will receive more criticism than praise.

    No i was surprised also at how little was made of that incident.

  • Comment number 19.

    So Rafa is once again blaming anybody but himself and his team for their shortcomings. This time he claims that Valencia dived to win a penalty and we are all supposed to show some sympathy. Well Rafa, can I just remind you of a game at Anfield earlier in the season against Birmingham City. You were 2-1 down with not much time to play and your striker David Ngog theatrically dived over the thresh air surrounding Lee Causley's leg to win a penalty that should NEVER have been.

    What goes round, comes round Rafa. Your pathetic!

  • Comment number 20.

    Liverpool started quite well but after the penalty decision they went back to their usual stifling tactic and hoofing it into the channels in the hope either Torres or the Gerrard would get onto it and produce a piece of magic (unlikely from Gerrard this season).

    Their demise has surely been one of the quickest in recent memory, Leeds not included. Even if it is just 'a bad season', it's going to have far reaching consequences. Five or ten years ago it wasn't such a problem to have on off season because the money involved wasn't so great and for a team like Liverpool, they could be fairly confident of finishing higher up in subsequent seasons.

    However, this time it appears as if everything has capitulated at once. Their team has worsened beyond belief, the manager has lost the plot and the board can't sack him because his pay out is too large. The players look dispirited and Riera's outburst, although only from a squad player, feels indicative of the mood in the squad but the more senior players don't want to jeopardise their own position.

    All of a sudden there's three other challengers for 4th when in seasons gone by there might be only one, sometimes none. Their current financial and debt woe will be exacerbated by the fact that they'll lose Champions League revenue and league finishing position money.

    In my opinion, these are Liverpool's darkest days since they last won the league in 1990, worse than their Souness years. The financial stakes are much higher now.

  • Comment number 21.

    #14 DIVING is not always when you simulate when no contact is made. No one has argued that Mascherano did not foul him. But he waited until he was in the box and then SIMULATED that the MINIMAL contact was something more.

    I would just like to see players play like kids in the park to be honest. I know there is a lot at stake but it cant mean as much winning when you know you have did it by those means.

  • Comment number 22.

    8. At 09:04am on 22 Mar 2010, SensibleSoccer wrote:
    I think the pen was a very very bad decision.

    There is no question that Mascherano had tugged at him but when he gets in the box there is very little contact and Valencia could have stayed on his feet but he chose to fling himself down


    Fling himself down?? If you are trying to pull away from a force at the speed he was then suddenly that force disappears (mascherano letting go) then you will fall to the ground because you no longer need to pull away so hard but can't adjust yourself in time, its simple physics!

  • Comment number 23.

    So phil still back the pool for the title?
    I doubt it! United were far from their best yesterday but at this stage all that matters is getting the three points.
    They matched Liverpool in the midfield and it's not suprising that this co-insided with the first time Fletcher has played against Liverpool in (was it six?) games.
    United have some HUGE games coming up, not least Chelsea at Home and Bayern away so I certainly wouldn't start any sort of victory party yet.
    LOVED how people are making such a big deal over the penalty decision however when the same sort of thing happened against city in the CC semi 1st leg, it was barely commented on by the press.

  • Comment number 24.

    #22 In that case he would have fell forward. Did you fall asleep in Physics???

    If you and I both pull on a rope in opposite directions and i let go do you fall forward???

    I dont understand your argument they were not playing in zero gravity.


  • Comment number 25.

    Hmmm. The replays show that Valencia definitely dived but I don't blaim the ref for giving the pen; I thought it was at first glance + Mascherano plays on such a knife-edge that he invites these type of decisions.

    Overall, I don't think Liverpool fans have much to complain about. Their team played okay but ManU were better (they played the same way Liverpool did earlier in the season).

    I also think that Phil's words about Gerrard are a little harsh; not only did he put in two crosses that Torres could have won the game with (undeservedly) but he released Kuyt to set up the first goal too. If he went missing for periods of the game, I'd say it was more down to ManU's midfield doing well than him underperforming.

  • Comment number 26.


    Obviously not as sensible as your name suggests.

  • Comment number 27.

    I recall posting a comment in NOVEMBER, Saying, come March.....

    Man utd would be at the top of the league and still in the champions league. Liverpool would not be our main challengers,

    A liverpool chap trashed my comment (can't rememer your name but am searching for the blog)

    WELL WELL, i hate to say it, BUT i was right.

    And this weekend Ladies and Gentlemen, organised the top four in the order that the league will finish. Chelsea 3rd

  • Comment number 28.

    It was never a penalty.But it was definitely a foul out side the box here we go again Man U get another Jammmmmy penalty yet again same old story over and over again !!!

  • Comment number 29.

    SO once again Lafa Rantinez is having a rant..
    He should be given ban retrospectively for his unsportsmanship off the field.

  • Comment number 30.

    I think that any side can go to Old Trafford and lose, they're three time reigning champions for a reason. If it wasn't for the context of the going out in the CL group stage and the race to 4th, this match may not have been blog worthy.

  • Comment number 31.

    I thought Man U really deserved the victory in what was quite a good game. I think they will probably go on to win the PL and to be honest I think they are the best team at the moment.

    I am not even sure now if Liverpool will get into fourth place, something I am pretty chuffed about to be honest!

  • Comment number 32.


    I was eagerly waiting to read your article.

    Nothing much in today's article, but as you pointed out the importance of both the team and the frustration of one and joy of another.

    Fletcher and PArk seems to be the player for big seasons, and that's why he keeps them always in check along with Giggs and Scholes.

    Good to see Neville coming and playing, but not great marking.

    Good Joke you took in yourself stating some fools bet liverpool to win.

    The race is not over yet and I would like to know your opinion of how Obertan is good and is there any chance of seeing Hargreaves this season?

    I guess being UTD fan, maschaerano got lucky yesterday, but that balances everything, if you consider the not sending off of Vidic in Carling Cup..

    At end of day 3 points in bag, go home and get ready for the next one

  • Comment number 33.

    24. At 09:33am on 22 Mar 2010, SensibleSoccer wrote:
    #22 In that case he would have fell forward. Did you fall asleep in Physics???

    If you and I both pull on a rope in opposite directions and i let go do you fall forward???

    I dont understand your argument they were not playing in zero gravity.



    I get the feeling you don't really understand physics......oh not such a sensible post

  • Comment number 34.

    I don't think Liverpool can really complain about decisions from officials over this last week or so.

    But this is just papering over the cracks, simple fact is, Liverpool are just not very good, I think Benitez needs to be shown the door, along with a few others.

  • Comment number 35.

    24. At 09:33am on 22 Mar 2010, SensibleSoccer wrote:
    #22 In that case he would have fell forward. Did you fall asleep in Physics???


    But he did fall forward! Otherwise if he fell backwards he would have landed outside the box!

  • Comment number 36.

    Man Utd deserved to win, though they won with a Mourinho type efficiency rather than fluid attacking play that has characterised them in recent years. Not sure why you thought Rooney was instrumental as from the game I saw he was largely anonymous and comfortably outplayed by Jamie Carragher which I doubt many of us would have predicted prior to kick off.

    At the end of the day the referee gave the penalty probably to avoid having to send Masherano off and was equally as lenient with Fletchers violent conduct later on in the game. Both would have been red cards on a different day. Most penalties these days involve some sort of diving or simulation because as Michael Owen said at half time yesterday if you don't go down the ref doesn't give the foul.

    Tiredness seemed to be prevalent with both teams towards the end though which may actually point to burn out for the World Cup if not before.

  • Comment number 37.

    #22 Besides which, think about this.

    Do you think you could haul someone who was standing still to the ground with one hand. It is nigh on impossible. So someone running AWAY from you. i.e. MORE RESULTANT FORCE its even more difficult.

    Watch the footage again. Valencia LOSES HIS FEET and COILS BACKWARDS. There is absolutely no debate that he FLUNG HIMSELF. I cant remember the last time one of my work colleages were able to haul me down in 5 a side. But i guess those looming 3 pts have something to do with it.


  • Comment number 38.

    I sympathize with Benitez.

    The hard facts are that Man Utd. are a virtual monopoly in the Premier League. They have built a huge squad from loads of cash generated the largest stadium in the league and of course the odd bit of extra debt as required. What Fergie wants he gets and has first choice of any UK player because he will have a combination of the deepest pockets and history of success.

    Yes, Fergie is a good manager....but his achievement in the league is a similar achievement to Inter, to Lyons (7 league titles in a row) and others at the top of their country leagues. Once you have the biggest amount of cash and you build up the biggest squad then you tend to stay there for some time.

    There is an inherent flaw in the leagues in that one club or possibly two can become virtual monopolies in their leagues. So Fergie & Man Utd are good but not hugely unique.

    The problem for competitors is significant. Chelsea have spent a large amount...much more than Liverpool to build a squad and look like coming up short again. The effort for someone other than Man Utd to win the league is monumental and inevitably the following year there is normally a backlash if you are not paying your players a fortune (eg Chelsea). This backlash is caused by: (1) Key players leave to go to a monopoly club in another country e.g. Hleb, Henry to Barcelona, Alonso to Madrid. (2)This weakening of the team plus form dip,injuries & exhaustion combined with the lack of a quality squad the size of United means that the following year there is a performance dip. This year it is Liverpool - last year it was Arsenal. The dip is much more precarious now because of the other strong teams vying for fourth. (Man Utds huge quality squad cushions them from such dips).

    So...Liverpool in difficulty this year, probably Arsenal next year all of this Man Utd goes serenely on and Chelsea are there also both because they have squads that are quality and large enough. But even Chelsea are finding it tough to compete with Man Utd.

    Will this ever change...not looking likely. Man Utd have built up the squad. They can compete even with many injuries. So unless someone takes over from Fergie and completely screws it up this cycle looks like continuing with no end in sight. A very depressing thought.

    In all of this - the Arsenal method of competing is the only one that makes sense (largely critcized by pundits who seem to have no clue about how the mechanics of the leagues have changed in the last 10 years) in that at lest they are not going into debt whilst they compete.

    If Arsenal actually did win the league given its current construction this would be a monumental success. Equally, given that Man Utd. have so much in their favour from Squad size, history, cash, refereeing decisions,lucky own goals, the old boys club that Fergie has built up e.g. Allardyce then it would be a monumental failure for them to lose the league this year.

    Liverpool's plight is par for the course - just look at other leagues and history.

  • Comment number 39.


    MOTD pundits agreed that the "penalty" should not have been given.

    Valencia dived once he got into the box.

  • Comment number 40.

    "The way he fell down is strange. When you see the replay it is suspicious how he went to the ground," said Benitez.

    If he's looking for strange or suspicious events he need look no further than the FA not charging Gerrard or the referees in question not being disciplined.
    Also, no doubt Torres will get away with deliberately damaging the penalty spot and how close to goal would Valencia have got had Mascherano not been dragging him back? Liverpool got lucky again, Mascherano should have got red and possible Torres.

  • Comment number 41.

    Yes the chickens are certainly coming home to roost big time for us. The lack of investment last summer when we desperately needed the owners to shore up the striking dept and RW has been exposed as extremely fool hardy business acumen by owners who seem to believe in the Tory mantra of cut, cut, cut!

    Add to this Rafa's woeful tactics of caution first, second and last and we have truly plummed the depths this season. In defence of rafa he does not have the personnel at his disposal and selling Alonso (his fault when he tried to off load him the previous summer) has revealed a gaping hole in the central creative position.

    If this werent all bad enough we have players kicking off (Torres should be disciplined by the FA in my view for his penalty spot behaviour -and im a LFC supporter!) -Riera, Babel and our capt plainly unable to inspire himself let alone those around him.

    We still have a chance of 4th but need Man City and particularly Spurs to lose at least 2/3 games each. is this going to happen, i dont know. That also pre-supposes we win ours! We couldnt rouse ourselves to beat a sunday lge 3rd eleven at the moment. So do i think we'll make 4th? No, frankly and we dont deserve to either. Are things going to get worse? You'd have to say its more likely than not with departures in the summer of leading players, financial melt down and a situation heading rapidly for a Leeds Utd/Newcastle scenario.

  • Comment number 42.

    Who finished 7th (or will it be 8th) in a four horse race???
    Where do you think they will finish Phil?

  • Comment number 43.

    So Valencia 'flung himself', fair enough. Just like the majority of players in the league inside the box. Gerrard is hardly a saint for that type of behaviour, and as someone pointed out before, N'Gog dived for a penalty against Birmingham earlier in the season.

    So he went down easily, it happens.

  • Comment number 44.

    ah, found it...............
    • 30. At 08:28am on 26 Oct 2009, you wrote:
    Liverpool played their lungs out n got a much needed result. but pipo lets not get so emotional n lose focus, THAT GAME WAS A PREMIER LEAGUE MATCH, n THE TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE LEAGUE WILL HAVE THAT LAST LAUGH.

    And he wrote................

    • 65. At 09:11am on 26 Oct 2009, LFCDunc wrote:
    Good article, Phil.

    Masterit, I read all the the comments on this page with interest, Liverpool fan or not. However, I cannot take anybody's comments seriously if they write with the caps lock on, make silly spelling mistakes and write in text language as well.

    Please repost it in May so I can have another laugh.


  • Comment number 45.

    At 39. Lee Dixon and Alan Hansen, Aye im sure they aren't biased or anything?

  • Comment number 46.

    If what you report is correct Benetez can only be detrimental to Liverpool from now on. His constant sarcasm, his bitterness, smack of someone who is dealing with Psychological monsters, his being Ferguson. The wins in the league matches have never managed to dimiss his feelings as He can't get the league. He won't now, he is too far into the mind games and bitterness to get himself out of it, and I genuinely see it bordering on pathological hate. Any good manager needs to able to lob his verbal grenades and then walk away putting on the skin of a Rhino and taking it all with a dose of salts. Benetez can't. Ancellotti has shown he is not all that, and only a Chelsea clear out or a disastrous hic cough from United will give them the title. Arsenal to come third. I predicted last september/october that Liverpool would finish outside the top 10. I might be wrong, but they will closer to where I had them than you did phil. I genuinely believe selling Alonso was a major error and the bitterness Benetez displayed towards the champions last season was a sign of what was to come. You cannot win a league on Hate and regret.

  • Comment number 47.

    A couple of observations

    1. Ferguson knows that you cannot win a trophy before Christmas, you can lose one but its feb onwards where consistency is the key. Teams that go unbeaten for a long stretch at the start of seasons are not usually winners by the end. He has the tactics of a marathon off to a tee, others dont.

    2. Chelsea are beginning to fall to pieces, yes it is relative but look at just 3 weeks or so ago, Utd lose at Everton, Chelsea beat wolves - 4 pts clear, now 4 pts down, that I think supports point 1

    3. Utd are not a great team, they have an over reliance on one man, yes they lost Ronaldo but they had a burgeoning talent to take his place and who has blossomed this year but lets not kid ourselves, he was not on against wolves and Utd scraped through, so Utd fans dont delude yourselves, you survived losing Ronaldo because of 2 things, the continuing ineptitude of your challengers (how many games have you lost and yet you are still leading ?) and the fact that you had 2 world class players at the club. Lose Rooney through injury and you become distinctly average.

    4. Liverpool. Just what do you say. I think Liverpool are an indictment of the averageness that is the Premiership, the fact that it has taken this long for City, Spurs and Villa to get their act together to overtake them illustrates their own averageness.

    Utd will walk the title, even if Arsenal have what seems the slighty better run in (Chelsea are like the marathon runner whose legs have gone), they will walk it because of Rooney+lady luck which all winning teams need (going back to the Wolves game, coming just after the loss at Everton, Wolves should have equalised at the end) but more importantly, they are accustomed to needing to win ALL their games at the "squeaky bum" end of the season.

    People will say look at the closeness of the Premiership as justification for its quality, dont kid yoursleves the perceived excitement of a close race cant hid the fact that it is a distinctly average league, so when Utd win the title for a 4th consecutive year (and I supect the Cl as well) applaud them but lets remember how much dross there is below them)

  • Comment number 48.

    are you lot for real?

    a ban or action taken for kicking a bit of turf, the world really has gone mad!!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    The pen's really touch and go imo. Personally I think it's the correct decision. Initial foul is outside, but the rules are actually:

    "If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick"
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Argument that still holding when Valencia's into the box. Hansen was saying last night that standing leg outside, but if the rest of his body is inside, it's inside isn't it?

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    ...and decent argument that last man as Carragher really wouldn't have got across in time
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Didn't think Liverpool got alot of the refereeing decisions, (tho Torres escaping a booking for the penalty spot kick and Mascherano escaping the red), Fletcher should've been at least booked for the lashout, no foul for the Neville high boot, but equally I don't think they did enough to win. United were the better team on the day imo.

    Great result for Utd anyways, especially with Blackburn taking points off Chelsea.

  • Comment number 50.

    Thank you stuexeter!!!!

    Sensiblesoccer........ idiotic response.

  • Comment number 51.

    Why would Madrid even want Benitez? Similar performance at the Bernabeau as liverpool have offered this season and he'd be in and out the revolving doors in months!

    It's alarming when Torres just looses it and even more so when Gerrard can't even be bothered to loose - has he made the decision that whatever happens to Benitez he's off! Looked like it yesterday

  • Comment number 52.

    #48 What Torres did was disrespectful to his fellow sportsmen. If you went into work and were disrespectful to a colleague or just someone in your office complex. Im pretty sure your manager would give you an ear ache.

    Its called professional courtesy.

    I think Torres is a terrific player and im no Utd lover but what he did was out of order and no-one should be above reprimand.

  • Comment number 53.

    The quality of competition in a league is determined by the number of different winners of the league and not the struggle.

  • Comment number 54.

    Phil Mc'nulty wrote:

    Valencia's rapid development has been a feature of United's return to the top of the Premier League. He shone again - but was grateful for the assistance offered by the hopeless duo occupying Liverpool's left flank.

    Good point Phil, I tipped Valenica V Inusua to be a mismatch, an area where United could expose Liverpool and so it proved.

    Valencia is fast becoming one of the best wingers in the league, although Insua did his best to play to Valenica strengths, or so you would have thought. Poor poor display for him, not to take anything away from Valencia, you can only beat (time and time agaibn what your up against).

    I think when players like Insua can get into your first Xi it indicates how far Liverpool have slipped.

    And I don't care what anyone says (cue injury excuse from Liverpool fans) Steven Gerrard isn't the player he was, partly because he doesn't look interested anymore and as though his heart is in the right place. I think he has finally got to the end of his tether playing in a team of (barring the obvious few) blatantly average players.

    On the penalty incident it was quite similar to the one Rafael conceded against Bellamy - in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg. The original foul began outside the box so theoretically the ref should ward the freekick.

    However we don't want football to turn into Rugby Union, with the whistle blowing every 30 seconds. The referee allowed play to go on, and you could argue either way was there enough of a foul in the box, - regardless it was given.

    It was one of them if it's for your team you gratefully accept it, and if it's against your team you have a good moan about it.

    Thankfully I experienced the former!

    Very important win, and puts us in pole position for the title! Although Arsenal seem to have that little bit of luck on ther shoulder at the moment.

    Happy days!

  • Comment number 55.

    It was an interesting game (although not the spectacular fare some were hoping for), but i fail to see how anyone could honestly argue that was not a penalty. Everyone who is commenting on it is looking at slow motion replays from a variety of angles, the ref had one angle and at real-time. I bet when you forst saw it almost everyone thought it was a penalty. Overall, i think most sensible folk would agree Man Utd deserved to win the match.

    However, from a World Cup perspective i am very worried about Gerrard. His performance yesterday was, frankly, non-existent. I think the years of carrying the hopes of Liverpool FC on his shoulders are finally catching up with him, and he can no longer deliver with the regularity that he used to. I really hope this is down to lack of faith in the manager and not burnout, as we are going to need him on top of his game in SA (I dread the thought of having to rely on Lampard).

    Also, i agree with an earlier post about Rafa losing the dressing room. I thought this many months ago, but it seems like it is starting to bubble into the public forum now. Actions like Gerrard's two-fingered salute and elbowing are of a player extremely frustrated with things and has no other way of showing it. Similarly, Torres's petulance yesterday was another sign. These, along with the outbursts in the press of Torres, Riera, Babel etc do not bode well for a harmonious team all pulling together and fighting for 4th spot.

    What would happen if the unthinkable occurs and they dont even make it to Europe?? Intertoto cup anyone?

  • Comment number 56.

    Fact is Liverpool are crap. They Lost to Man U. Liverpool do not play entertaining football. They play the most boring football ever with 2 defensive holding midfielders.

    In Rafa We Defensively Trust.

  • Comment number 57.

    I think a lot of commentators and pundits have missed the fact that Mascherano also clips Valencia's heal as they enter the box. Obviously everyone has focused on the arm pull, but there is more to it as Fletcher alluded to in his interview.

    I don't agree that it should have been a red card. I think this rule should be changed that if a professional foul is committed outside the penalty area, then the player should be sent off. However, if the foul is committed inside the penalty area and is a reasonable attempt at a tackle, then a penalty should be punishment enough.

    At the moment, referee's seem to confuse a genuine attempt to win the ball that results in a foul, with the 'professional foul' which is when the tackle is made knowing there is no chance of getting the ball. Vermarlen's sending off being a case in point, that it was a genuine attempt to get the ball he should not have been sent off.

  • Comment number 58.

    Whether he went down too easily or not, the Mascherano tug would have prevented him taking a clear goal scoring anyway so the penalty decision was definitely fair. Too much cheating goes on these days anyway, pull him and release him just before he enters the penalty box, so he loses balance and cannot take a shot. That is cheating! There are no two ways to describe it and it is appropriate that Mascherano was made to feel the full weight of the Law.

    I don't think United have got a penalty at OT this season anyway, contrast with Liverpool who have been awarded 8 or 9 at Anfield. So it was about time we got a rub of green too! On the balance of the whole game, United would have on either way anyway! Liverpool were just too poor on the night (or shall we say day?)

    What Phil failed to point out in this article is how appalling the United defence were in the first goal. HOW CAN YOU LEAVE TORRES UNMARKED IN THE 6-YARD BOX AND LET HIM HAVE A FREE HEADER?!

    This is an unforgivable sin and both Ferdinand and Vidic should be taken outside and shot. Literally.

  • Comment number 59.

    I thought the game was pretty avarage yesterday. Liverpool had me worried to begin with but a part from the late chance which Torres messed up I felt relatively confident.

    They don't seem to have any drive or determination.
    This is probably suicidal but I don't want Gerrard going to the world cup, he's never performed for England and his great form for Liverpool always secured him a place.
    I don't think he can play with Lampard either.
    He should be a stand out player in such a avarage Liverpool squad.
    You could argue he doesn't get the supply from his team mates but he used to be a player that could create things himself.
    He has almost given up on himself and the team.

    I don't think he has the passion or the stand out qualities to play in June. He has put in some great performances and saved Liverpool time and time again in the past but Capello did say he would only take players in form?
    Will he take Gerrard?

    open for responces.


  • Comment number 60.

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

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • Comment number 62.

    Hey Phil, you didn't give your opinion on the penalty decision... What do you think?

    I'm a MU fan, but have to admit there was no foul inside the area. 'Dived' is a but extreme but I think it's fair to say Valencia realised he'd be better off falling only once inside the box.

    And I was surprised by Torres' petulance. I had rated him as more professional than that.

  • Comment number 63.

    here's a thought.

    we often comment how we would all like some improvements in the game
    this has mainly focused on video technology.

    a very simple improvement to make would be for the REF to actually
    inform " advantage being played " as they do in Rugby! this is not
    rocket science and could be very easily implemented.

    It was clear Valencia was being " held back " but outside the BOX!
    Webb, had a clear view and was obviously playing " advantage " as soon
    as valencia gets near to the box Mascherano lets go of him, Valencia then decideds its time to fall over and get the penalty. From Mr Webbs
    perspective he allowed play to continue knwing full well that should Mascherano not let go once inside the Box the pen would be awarded should he tumble. and its clear he Tumbled!

    had the REF; shouted out, on the original offense " advantage " the players would then have to back off from continueing the fowl play.
    In this case and due where the offense was being comitted the " advantage " given was the penalty.

    On the game. liverpool were very poor and showed no desire at all to make a game of it. Portsmouth have more fight and grit in them and its
    paying off. The pen was defo harsh but thats no reason to just throw in the towel and resort to other ways and means to try and make amends. There was plenty of time for Liverpool to re-group as it were and with
    effort and determination they could have equalised.

    all in all a very poor game to watch.

  • Comment number 64.

    "livershrew wrote:
    are you lot for real?

    a ban or action taken for kicking a bit of turf, the world really has gone mad!!!!"

    Lets hope it doesnt start a trend of kicking lumps out of penalty spots from now on! Im sure if pool got a penalty against United we'd get the spade out!

  • Comment number 65.

    As a Spurs fan, what actually amazed me was that Howard Webb awarded a penalty to anyone. Dodgy decision but Benitez knows that if it had been Vidic grabbing at Torres, he would have tumbled inside the area too.
    Benitez should be thankful that Webb didn't give Torres his deserved booking for his penalty spot petulance, or he'd have been sent off in the second half.
    Someone tell me why, having beaten Utd 4-1 last season and having seen his attacking line up featuring Babel and Aquilani do well in the last two games, he decides to go back to the old defensive set up when he knew Utd must be nervous. Liverpool don't deserve 4th spot with tactics like that. Whether Spurs make it or not, the fans will be able to say we went for it and played some great football along the way. Same goes for Man City and Villa.

  • Comment number 66.

    48. At 09:53am on 22 Mar 2010, livershrew wrote:
    are you lot for real?

    a ban or action taken for kicking a bit of turf, the world really has gone mad!!!!
    This looked like a deliberate attempt to disrupt the playing surface & gain an advantage, not just "kicking the turf" as you put it.
    It did come back to haunt when he hit the sky shot after it bobbled up from where he had been kicking it.

  • Comment number 67.

    #59. Ferdinands form is more of a concern than Gerrards. Illusrated by the fact that SG absolutely skinned Rio in the build up to Liverpool's goal

  • Comment number 68.

    What makes me laugh about your reports on United victories Phil is your tendency to mark it down because it wasn't a perfect display from United.

    If the scores were the other way round but the game itself played out the same way, you'd be prattling on about Liverpool "keeping pressure on the ball, working tirelessly" like you did after the game at Anfield this season.

    Vidic & Ferdinand did a great job in the 2nd half, from the back United were able to keep much more possession, and eventually grind out the winner. A classic run-in performance

    It's strange to see you writing about other players in United's side - Fletcher, Park. Does this mean you don't think United are "horribly dependant on Rooney" any more? United have given clueless pundits a thrashing this season

  • Comment number 69.

    Great result. Keep the title poised perfectly as It is both in Man Utd's and Chelsea's hands. If either win all their games, they win the title. However, any slip ups could let Arsenal in.
    As a Spurs fan, this was almost the perfect weekend. Only Fulham let us down although to be fair, after demolishing Juventus on Thursday, it was to be expected. They have bigger fish to fry than mid table in the Premier League.
    Nice to see Benitez is making yet more excuses for his team's failure. So much for guaranteeing fourth, they may not even make a European place at all. No wonder they are so desperate to win the Europa League. The only way they will qualify!

  • Comment number 70.

    #8 SensibleSoccer, #17 dogeared

    FIFA - Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct:

    If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area but CONTINUES HOLDING inside the penalty area, the referee shall award a penalty kick... And that's exactly a classical case of it, bearing in mind, what happened on Sunday at OT. The referee implemented the Law 12, and rightly so.

  • Comment number 71.



  • Comment number 72.

    @ 47

    Sorry i am a bit confused. How can you call Manchester United not great and then go on and say you think they will win the CL? If we are not great and we can win the best club competition in the world, what does that make the likes of Barcelona?

    Last season Manchester United were being accused of being a one man team - take Ronaldo out of the equation and they would become decidedly average. So in the summer, Fergie did exactly that and sold Ronaldo. The results are for all to see, Rooney has been unleashed.

    However, i do agree in sorts about the overhyping of the premier league. It does feel like the powerhouses are in decline, as their aging squads catch up with them. Man U are going to have to find replacements for scholes, giggs, neville and VDS in the not too distant future. Chelsea need to overhaul most of their first team.

    The only team that seems to be well placed for the mid to long term is Arsenal, who have built slowly and patiently, blooding youngsters and accepting a few years of winning nothing for the gains of having young, yet experienced players capable of mounting a challenge.

    If Man U dont win the league this season, then i would love Arsenal to do win it instead, as they play football the right way and Wenger has shown that you dont need to spend hundreds of millions to get a team capable of winning the league.

  • Comment number 73.

    56. At 10:06am on 22 Mar 2010, bobsy123 wrote:
    Fact is Liverpool are crap. They Lost to Man U. Liverpool do not play entertaining football. They play the most boring football ever with 2 defensive holding midfielders.

    In Rafa We Defensively Trust.



    liverpool essentially play with 6 defenders

    how pathetic is that.

  • Comment number 74.


  • Comment number 75.

    67. At 10:22am on 22 Mar 2010, cloughtheking wrote:
    #59. Ferdinands form is more of a concern than Gerrards. Illusrated by the fact that SG absolutely skinned Rio in the build up to Liverpool's goal


    I agree, but ferdinand has been out of the game for a while, no excuse i know! i do think he can look very dodgey.

    I just don't think Gerrard desereves a place on the plane.

  • Comment number 76.

    #70. Mascherano had clearly released his hold on Valencia before he reached the penalty area, therefore the rule you quote is not applicable in this instance

  • Comment number 77.

    In reply to Sensible Soccer,

    Sensible Soccer wrote:

    #14 DIVING is not always when you simulate when no contact is made. No one has argued that Mascherano did not foul him. But he waited until he was in the box and then SIMULATED that the MINIMAL contact was something more.

    Your correct in what you are saying but I think your being a bit anti-United. There was still an infringement in the box (unlike the Rafael v Bellamy incident when advantage was played) when the game went on, and as the referee had chosen to let play go on, - a penalty is the correct decision.

    I don't know who you support but Mascherano done exactly the same thing against Lille only near the centre of the the pitch so it escaped the limelight. There was a slight nudge in his back and he completely left the floor (flailing arms, legs - the lot).

    The standard of refereeing is part to blame for encourgaing players to over exagerrate the incident. If the referee's were simply moreconsistent with decisions or better at reading an incident, players wouldn't feel as pressurised or it within their role to exagerrate fouls.

    It is a problem in the game, and it isn't right that players are exaggerating incident, but I feel although not all responsibility can lie with ref's as ultimately the player is in charge of his/ her actions but inept refering is encourgaing them to.

    And to Dogeared 17)

    The fair result was 1-1. Unfortunately, the referee made the difference.

    A first half edged by United, and a second half controlled and largely dominated by United, in my book would mean a draw was fairly harsh on United.

    Correct result in my book!

  • Comment number 78.

    Like i said earlier, there are a lot of morons out there. Either that or its just biased fanboys.

    Any Utd fans wish to discuss Fletchers behaviour?? I think not.

    The post with the rules on players pulling shirts inside and out of the box is interesting but there was 2 very distinct incidents, there was the initial foul outside, to which Utd appeared to have been given the advantage, and then contact made in the box, very minimal i might add, and Valencia now aware that he was inside flung himself to the ground. I am working under the assumption that there wasnt a sniper in the ground and that the aforementioned sniper did not shoot Valencia at the pivotal moment.


  • Comment number 79.

    Re the penalty decision.

    1. If viewed in real-time it looks a definite penalty.

    2. Howard Webb did not give the penalty, the assistant referee did.

    3. Was it a penalty? Probably not. But in real time it really really looked like one.

    These things happen in football. But what I saw was simple yesterday. A boring scrappy game, typical derby stuff in fact, but United outplayed Liverpool and deserved to win.

  • Comment number 80.

    as soon as valencia gets near to the box Mascherano lets go of him, Valencia then decideds its time to fall over and get the penalty.

    he lets go too late imo. Valencia's backleg is outside, but the rest of his body is inside when Masch is still holding him.

    I don't buy Hansen's statement that his standing leg is outside; what does that matter, if the majority of his body is inside?

    My post above had photobucket screenshots of it, but was moderated out as unsuitable link.

  • Comment number 81.

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

  • Comment number 82.

    The penalty was deserved. I have seen Valencia score a few goals from just such a run and to see him cynically pulled back by Mascherano deserved a penalty even if the tug started outside the penalty area - its about time he got penalised for his persistent fouling. A shame Carragher never got the same treatment - should have had two yellows - just as he should have against Everton. Anywho glad Mascherano never got sent off as even though it is the rule I don't agree with red cards for penalty decisions unless they handball it on the line.

    Still all good - fairly easy win. Torres really does elevate the team from mid-table mediocrity and was by far their most dangerous player. But as soon as we raised the pace in the second half, that was enough. However, we have to reproduce this form for the rest of the season as Arsenal are the big challengers and they have a much easier run in than us or Chelsea. Chelsea and Manchester City matches will be the big challenges but every match is a potential bananaskin.

    One thing left to say - Save Rafa!

  • Comment number 83.

    The penalty decision was debatable, as contact was first made outside the box; however Rooney still had to score from the spot which he did so with Riena invitingly giving him the ball back. However what was not debatable was that Liverpool failed to turn up and like you say Phil there was no invention from midfield, the players kept passing sidewards and no one had the confidence to take the game back to united - very disappointing from an entertaining Liverpool last season.

    However, I was again truly impressed with the display of Rooney, and as a rival fan have to admit he is playing on fire. As a gooner I would wish his form would take a dip, but I must admit that he has impressed not only with his goal contribution but also they way he handles himself in games - hes not a show boater and simply gets on with the game, even yesterday acknowledging when the ref was about to book a Liverpool player for a foul that it didn't merit a card.

    The games will now come thick and fast for all three teams fighting for the title. All I can say that the PL hasn't been this exciting for a while and the final run in should provide more excitement - with hopefully Arsenal bringing the trophy home!

  • Comment number 84.

    "67. At 10:22am on 22 Mar 2010, cloughtheking wrote:
    #59. Ferdinands form is more of a concern than Gerrards. Illusrated by the fact that SG absolutely skinned Rio in the build up to Liverpool's goal

    Rubbish. Its clear you never watched the match.

  • Comment number 85.

    Let me put this in Liverpool-speak:

    It was a clear penalty. FACT.

    It should have been a red card. FACT.

    Torres should have been sent of for kicking away the spot and
    for the foul on Park (and more). FACT.

    Liverpool will finish outside the top 4 and be forced to sell their one good player. FACT.

  • Comment number 86.

    I think Liverpool fans need to take stock of where there "top 4 team" is the the grand scheme of things.

    They can no longer assume to be one of the "elite" in the EPL.

    Here are the facts:

    Liverpool are now nearer on points to Sunderland in 13th place than to United in first. They have lost as many League matches as Birmingham City (10) and as many away from home as Wolverhampton Wanderers (eight). They have lost more away games than any team in the top eight, and have been outscored away by Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers.

    They are unlikely to finish 5th let alone 4th. The currently sit 6th with the teams above having not only more points but also games in hand. Villa on their shoulders also have games in hand.

    To lump Liverpool in the same class grouping as United, Chelsea, and Arsenal is a massive insult to the these 3.

  • Comment number 87.

    Liverpool fans stop crying on about the penalty. Please ignore that and talk about the performances of your players and the manager.

    They were dreadful. Defensively minded and basically crap.

    The way you are playing the team might not even get into the top 6.

  • Comment number 88.

    "78. At 10:31am on 22 Mar 2010, SensibleSoccer wrote:
    Like i said earlier, there are a lot of morons out there. Either that or its just biased fanboys.

    Aint that the truth. Still confession is good for the soul. You must feel better!

  • Comment number 89.

    It was not a penalty but it was a sending off for a foul denying a goalscoring opportunity. So probs a equal outcome overall, but as good a actor Torres is he will never be a oscar winner if he keeps fluffing his lines! Thought he was poor and attitude was all wrong and cant help think Gerrard wished he was somewhere else right throughout the game!

  • Comment number 90.

  • Comment number 91.

    Whatever, if it was or was not a penalty is not important, i think we would have preferred a free kick and a sending off. so we could have really dominated and put them on the rack for a uncomfortable 75mins. Either way its 3POINTS!!! 3POINTS!!! complain all you want, the points are won, collected and saved under lock and key!

  • Comment number 92.

    I have to agree with #52 and sensible soccer. What Torres did was absolutely pathetic and I've certainly lost a bit of respect for him. Fantastic player but honestly how much more childish can footballers get? I love football but that love does wane from time to time when you see the way professional footballers behave. The constant arguing with the officials for getting a decision wrong when those same players spend most of their time trying to con the refs. The way they try to move a free kick an extra foot or 2 on from where it should be, really does that need to be done, does it make that much difference?

    I think the saddest thing I've heard this season though was when I was playing football with my girlfriend's nephew and he told me with some pleasure how he dived to win a free-kick in a game. This from a 9-year old. I told him it wasn't right to do it and he shouldn't feel proud but when he sees his heroes doing the same thing week in week out and getting rewarded for it how can you make him see that?

  • Comment number 93.

    Good point you make Phil about Fletcher, he was absent for the previous encounters that Man Utd lost, but yesterday played a pivitol role and in no small part was key to the win.
    I've always maintained that some of the best Utd players are the ones that just get on with the job of playing the game, not show-boating or over elaborating. Fletcher and Park typify this sort of ethic perfectly.
    Liverpool are in a downward spiral at the moment, and I'm struggling to see how the current manager can salvage their season. A Uefa cup win will just paper over the cracks, as would a 4th place finish. Which ever way you analyse it, Benitez has made some pretty poor signings, and this is costing the club dearly.
    Question to Phil - if Liverpool don't make it into the top four, how much longer can you see players like Torres and Mascherano hanging around for, when they are clearly good enough to win trophies.....

  • Comment number 94.

    #38 Again, yet another misconception about Utd's so called advantage with money, debt & spend. Man U have spent on average just below £8m per season since the start of the premier league, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Spurs and even Villa have all spent more than Utd in this same period. Utd do not have a bigger squad than any of the other 'big' premiership teams. As for Utd's excessive debt, this has nothing to do with excessive spending on players but more to do with manipulation of the clubs assets by it's owners. Utd were essential bought with a very small deposit and then as much money as possible was leveraged against the company by the owners. Utd are NOT in debt because of overspend on players but more as a calculated decision by the current owners to milk Utd's resources as much as possible.

    As for the game yesterday it was pretty much a sturgid affair, Torres will get censored for his antics in the penalty spot because I'm pretty sure the ref would have given him a yellow card if he had seen it but he had turned his back and was walking away to deal with something else when Torres kicked up the penalty spot. I mean what was he doing there anyway?

    Torres is a great striker but I'm pretty sure the frustration he demonstrated yesterday has more to do with the underlying motivation at his current club. I do not think he will be at LFC next year. Sure i would love Utd to put a bid in for him but I think Torres would be to loyal to Liverpool fan base to move to Utd, reckon either City (if they qualify in 4th), Chelsea or Barcelona will be his new home next year.

    Other than that, given that I believe that this is Utd's most average side for years I am delighted that we are now top (properly top given that Chelsea even if they win game in hand can't over take us), have won the CC again and have a great opportunity to get to third consecutive CL final. I think this is a great team achievement since if you were selecting a Premier League team of the year I think Utd would only realisticaly have two players in the first XI, Rooney & Evra.

  • Comment number 95.

    Before you scouse come here to whinge how the penalty was not a penalty bla bla bla, ask your team to learn how to play some footy first.

    United weren't even close to their best and if your lot had played with a little guts instead of sticking with 8-1-1 even after going a goal down, you might have got something out of it. Heck, we've seen Wigan and Hull show more ambition at Old Trafford.

    I hope Spurs, Villa or even City grab fourth place. At least they try to play the game and make it an entertaining spectacle.

    From United's perspective, let's not get carried away. We didn't play particularly well and this is only Liverpool after all i.e. 10 donkeys and Fernando Torres. Sterner tests ahead.

  • Comment number 96.

    At 10:32am on 22 Mar 2010, Stuz359 wrote:
    Re the penalty decision.

    1. If viewed in real-time it looks a definite penalty.

    2. Howard Webb did not give the penalty, the assistant referee did.

    3. Was it a penalty? Probably not. But in real time it really really looked like one.

    These things happen in football. But what I saw was simple yesterday. A boring scrappy game, typical derby stuff in fact, but United outplayed Liverpool and deserved to win.


    Exactly...even Benitez keeps refering to the third replay and not what he thought at the time...

    I still think there was contact in the box as well...minimal but contact none the less

  • Comment number 97.

    The real story of this match was the 'penalty', as shown by the discussions here.

    I think Webb conducts himself very well, but he consistently makes mistakes on the big decisions, and this was a howler.

    Yes, the linesman flagged it, but Webb made the decision, when it was obvious to the rest of the world that it wasn't a pen.

  • Comment number 98.

    Sensible soccer wrote:

    Any Utd fans wish to discuss Fletchers behaviour?? I think not.

    My response:

    Sensible (or so called) soocer.

    Route cause analysis. I thought Fletcher was harshly pulled up for a slight nudge on Insua, and the referre belatedly awarded a freekick.

    Fletcher played on (when the ref hadn't originally blown for a freekick) then he does blow up, and then Kuyt comes in from the side with a totally mis-timed challenge.

    This provoked from Fletcher an angry, heat of the moment reaction, which was understandible but ultimately inappropraite.

    So looking at the incident as a whole. If Kuyt doesn't make a crude challenge on Flecther the incident doens't happen, however as he did both parties in the wrong.

    That was written from a United fan, - but from an unbiased perspective or as best I can.

    Congratulations to the moderators this is frankly brillant. Keep it up!

  • Comment number 99.

    Pens awarded so far in the prem -

    West Ham - 7
    Chelsea - 6
    Hull - 5
    Sunderland - 5
    MUFC - 4
    Bolton, Fulham and others - 4

    How jammy are United - they always get penalties!!

  • Comment number 100.

    Rafa reminds me of Steve McClaren at England. A manager who has failed, is a laughing stock and quite frankly atrocious and refuses to resign because he wont get his pay packet.

    Rafa clearly doesn't care about Liverpool, if he did who would have the decency to stand down and let someone competent do the job...... on the other hand I am a United fan so I hate Rafa but love that he's a selfish beep and is taking the 'Pool down with them.

    Number 1..... Bingo thats got to be the hope!


Page 1 of 4

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.