Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

David Healy: Benitez still best man for Liverpool

Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez has certainly had his fair share of critics this season.

I’ve had a go myself but when you are the manager of Liverpool you expect some stick if things are not going well.

Right now the Reds are going through a difficult time.

Already out of the Premier League title race, they were eliminated from the Champions League on Tuesday night.

That was tough to take for Liverpool fans because with the club’s history, they should be playing in the biggest competitions. And in club football the biggest and best is the Champions League, not the Europa League.

Still, at least Liverpool have something to play for in Europe unlike Rangers who I’ve written about elsewhere in the column.

In Tuesday’s match against a pretty ordinary Debrecen side, Liverpool won 1-0. Even though it wasn’t a vintage display, it was still a victory.

After a dreadful run of results, any player will tell you how vital a win can be, no matter how it comes.

Liverpool must now believe they can build on that.

On Sunday they play Everton, who are having their own problems, and that is a massive game for Liverpool.

Everyone in football thought when they beat Manchester United that would kick-start their season.

Maybe a win over their derby rivals will do the trick. It would certainly help Benitez, whose future at the club is continually a subject for speculation.

Those calling for his head should remember though that he is a top class manager.

He arrived at Anfield when the club was at a low ebb and won them the Champions League. He took them to the final again a couple of years later, has won the FA Cup and took Manchester United all the way in the title race last season.

Not bad, is it? And this after doing brilliantly with Valencia.

Despite what has gone on recently I still believe he is the best man for the job at Anfield.

While I rate Benitez as a manager I have to admit the Alberto Aquilani situation does bemuse me.

A few weeks back I wrote about how the Italian could be the man to provide that spark missing for most of the season.

But he’s hardly played.

I don’t understand it because Liverpool paid £20 million for him and by all accounts were gutted that he was out injured for so long. Now he is available and doesn’t get a game.

When you are coming back from injury that’s exactly what you want — game time to build your fitness. I would have thought Rafa needs his best players out on the pitch, not sitting on the bench.

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