Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

McManaman: Liverpool have left it too late

Steve McManaman believes Liverpool would win the Barclays Premier League title if there were eight games remaining.

But the former Liverpool winger, who scored 66 goals in 364 appearances for his home-town club, accepts that his old club's best form of the season has come just too late for them to pip Manchester United.

Liverpool have won eight of their last nine league games and picked up 25 of the last 27 available points.

But they have only two matches remaining and it appears that impressive run will not be enough to stop United becoming champions again.

The Old Trafford club need four points to clinch the crown and could secure them from two games this week, at Wigan tomorrow and at home to Arsenal on Saturday.

If they still need points by the end of the weekend, United will still have a final-day trip to relegation-threatened Hull ahead of them.

McManaman, speaking in a Setanta TV interview, expects manager Rafael Benitez to spend in the summer to correct the faults of the current campaign.

McManaman said: "Unfortunately it has all come a little too late this season. But they must be full of optimism for next season.

"And I expect Rafa (Benitez) to rectify in the summer that little lacking in creativity.

"The different between them and Manchester United is match-winners on the bench. United have had the likes of Carlos Tevez to come on and change things, but if you looked at Liverpool's bench that match-winning quality was not there.

"Rafa knows that, I believe he will put that straight in the summer."

Benitez is being linked with Tevez, the Argentina team-mate of Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, as well as Heerenveen's £8million-rated Croatian winger Daniel Pranjic.

McManaman accepts that the mid-season spell of draws against lesser teams at Anfield has cost Liverpool dearly.

He said: "When you drop points, you always reflect on games you should have won. Manchester United will probably say that too, but it applies more to Liverpool.

"At home Liverpool have been held by the likes of Stoke, Fulham, Manchester City and Hull. Games that Liverpool should have won.

"They just could not break teams down. They failed to beat Stoke home or away, things like that are not good."

McManaman added: "They are scoring goals now, looking extremely confident and they have that creativity now.

"It is a shame that there are not eight or nine games of the season to go rather than just a couple. You would fancy Liverpool to win it (the title) under those circumstances.

"There was a time when if they didn't have Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard they were struggling. Now it's different, there's Yossi Benayoun, Dirk Kuyt or someone else.

"Others are all now chipping in, they are much more of a team now."

As Liverpool wait for the outcome of United's two games this week before they play next - at West Brom on Sunday - Benitez has been quick to praise the impact of assistant manager Sammy Lee.

Lee joined up with Benitez last May, and the Liverpool manager said: "I don't know any manager who is the perfect manager, so no number two can be perfect.

"But if you ask me if he is close to being the perfect number two then I think he is.

"The only thing he can improve a little bit is his English!"

Liverpool have confirmed their academy technical director Piet Hamberg will leave in the summer, two years after joining from Grasshoppers Zurich.

His replacement will be Frank McParland, the former Bolton general manager who has also previously worked within the Liverpool youth set-up.

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