Belfast Telegraph

We can topple United: Benitez

Rafael Benitez feels Liverpool have shown the rest of the Premier League how to beat Manchester United.

Five days after putting four past Real Madrid to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, the Merseyside giants repeated the feat at Old Trafford to revive some hope of lifting the Premier League trophy.

It was a memorable victory — Liverpool’s biggest at the home of their fierce rivals since 1936 — but one tinged with regret as Benitez considers the vast number of points frittered away against lower lights that mean the Spaniard still requires plenty of favours if he is to haul back Sir Alex Ferguson.

If the odds remain long, the one straw Benitez can clutch at is that in inflicting upon United their first league defeat since November — and their first at home since Manchester City won on the day they commemorated the 50th anniversary of Munich — Liverpool have proved Ferguson’s team are human.

"We have shown the way," said Benitez. "United have been playing with so much confidence. At least people will now see that they can lose.

"The message is there for everyone. In attack they are fantastic. You can see the quality they have. But in defence they have some weaknesses and we tried to exploit them."

Benitez’s conclusion is a bit of a surprise given United’s defence has been impenetrable for most of the season.

Not so here. And as Liverpool can call on the stellar talents of Fernando Torres and Steven Ger

rard, two men Ferguson would love to have at his disposal no matter what riches he can already call on, United might prefer to think of it as a day when events conspired against them.

Neither Nemanja Vidic nor Patrice Evra can have played as poorly since that dark day three years ago when the Red Devils were walloped by the same scoreline at Manchester City.

Michael Carrick’s precise passing has temporarily deserted him and while Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney — who suffered the ultimate slap in the face after telling of his hatred for Liverpool this week — worked hard, they never looked as though they would add to the opener provided by Cristiano Ronaldo, another United man well below top form.

In contrast, Gerrard dominated behind Torres, the Spanish bull who had too much strength, speed and guile to be intimidated by Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

As Benitez knows his side must realistically end the season with nine straight wins to have a chance of reeling back the four-point gap United still hold, knowing it could be more as they also have a match in hand, the fitness of Torres is absolutely crucial.

"We have to keep Fernando on the pitch," said Benitez.

"He gives us more confidence and helps us create more opportunities. It is the same with Gerrard."

Belfast Telegraph


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