Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: â€œYou could see that he was not 100 per cent and you could see that he was not fresh but still sometimes 80 per cent of Fernando can make a difference.” – Rafa Bentiez.
Runner-up: “It was a disappointing afternoon. It was a disappointing performance. Liverpool were the better team, they deserved to win the game, but there were so many controversial things that happened we have to feel aggrieved at some of them. Michael Carrick gets a clear penalty kick as far as I was concerned. Jamie Carragher has gone right over the top of the ball. If it is outside of the box it is a free-kick and maybe a yellow card. But it was inside the box and the referee was only six yards from it. It was a bad decision, I think. It is very difficult atmosphere here. There was a wounded animal aspect to the game and it was something we didn’t overcome. I think it affected our players and it affected the referee. Whether he had enough experience or not, I don’t know.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Today’s overview: What a difference three points make.
Kevin McCarra leads the praise for Liverpool, chiming “if every game were a life-or-death moment for Liverpool, they would probably turn out to be immortal… These are the sort of fixtures that bring out indefatigability in Rafael BenÃtez’s side, who have now beaten these opponents three times in a row.” Next it was Henry Winter’s turn, saying “for all the talk of BenÃtezâ€™s bad buys and the managerâ€™s cold character, yesterday showed that with leaders like Carragher around, Liverpool must always be respected.”
Shooing in an air of caution for the Merseysiders, Alan Hansen is quick not to count any chickens. “For the players to pick themselves up and play so well was unbelievable. They were a yard quicker than United, more aggressive and better in every department. The doom and gloom of last week has gone, but in the cold light of day, this is one game and one victory.”
Party-pooper Martin Samuel spoils the mood further, grumbling “something was missing at Anfield yesterday. Once the noise had subsided and the pulse rates returned to normal, neither side came out of it particularly well… It was one of those games: 10 versus 10 at the end, summing up its blood and thunder nature, but also the general absence of a touch of class.”
Amazingly, loudmouth Stan Collymore uses Liverpool’s win as his foundation for arguing that Jose Mourinho should be the new boss at Anfield. “I still think Jose Mourinho is the most likely manager to bring the title back to Merseyside. I think Mourinho could get the kind of commitment Liverpool showed yesterday out of the team week in, week out… Yesterday Liverpoolâ€™s players were always going to be wound up and motivated because of the occasion. And that is why I am more than ever convinced that the â€™Special Oneâ€™ is the man to take them forward.”
One man is obviously singled out by the fourth estate – all hail Fernando Torres.
Kicking off the love-in, Paul Hayward obverses how “Torres has now scored 34 goals in 35 league games at Anfield… Frankly, without him, Liverpool are a severely diminished force… He may resent the philistines who knock him about and the referees who sometimes fail to protect him but sheer force of talent always carries him to the heart of the drama, where his athleticism and grace usually do the rest.”
Scouser Tony Evans waxes lyrical over Torres’ goal against United. “Fernando Torres is a folk hero at Anfield. He has the pace of a young Owen but is way ahead in strength and awareness. Rio Ferdinand, like most of the ground, must have believed that he had manhandled Torres into a position where it was impossible to score. The Spain striker proved him wrong. The shock wave left the ground bouncing.”
Spreading the Liverpool love though is Sam Wallace. “The game was won by Torres but in its crucial moments players such as Jamie Carragher, Lucas Leiva and Javier Mascherano, later sent off, made interventions that turned out to be vital.”
Oliver Kay notes how Fergie missed the chance to sign Torres. “What a player Torres is. Ferguson must rue the day that, after pursuing him for the previous three summers, he passed up the opportunity to sign him in 2007 on the basis that the forward, then at AtlÃ©tico Madrid, was not composed enough in front of goal.”
But what of Manchester United? James Lawton, who barked “United were at times so inept that Liverpool might have got by with any old jumble of pros plus the man who put them to the sword with a piece of trademarked, exquisite action that cast further question marks against Rio Ferdinand’s ranking among the world’s top half-dozen defenders.”he trouble with Manchester United was not so much that they lost; it was that they created so little.” More critical though was
Sticking the knife in to the Mancunians, Rob Kelly lists United’s “underlying problems.” “United stillÂ appear to beÂ struggling to adapt to the Cristiano Ronaldo-shaped hole in their midfield. They have lookedÂ superb in patchesÂ this season (away at Tottenham and in the second half at Wigan), but they have failed to consistentlyÂ hit the heights they were capable of in seasons past.”
Looking at the Premier League at large, Russell Kempson mockingly asks “would anyone like to win the Barclays Premier League?… Of the leading six teams on Saturday morning, only Chelsea raised their hands and bellowed: ‘Yes, we would like to win the championship. Very much, actually.’ They cruised to a 5-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United lost, while Arsenal, Manchester City and Aston Villa drew.”
Dipping into the lower leagues, Patrick Barclay berates Middlesbrough for sacking Gareth Southgate. “Because Gibson had kept Southgate after relegation from the Barclays Premier League in May… we imagined that he would be given a proper chance to regroup in the Coca-Cola Championship… it is more difficult to see them as an exemplary club now. We shall have to find someone else to hail.”
North of the boarder, the Guardian report that “Rangers today confirmed they had received ‘tentative enquiries’ regarding the sale of the club but had yet to receive a formal offer.” But until such an offer materialises, Graham Spiers details that Rangers will continue to be under the control of the banks. “Walter Smith yesterday cast fresh doubt on his Rangers future, after claiming on Saturday evening that Rangersâ€™ bankers â€” HBOS, which is owned by Lloyds Banking Group â€” are effectively running the club.”
Trying to separate the forest from the trees at Rangers, Roddy Forsyth asks “are Rangers – shocking as it may seem – effectively in administration? Or are they being asset-stripped? What other terms should one use when they are being operated by their principal creditor, whose strategy is to run down the inventory while trying to hawk the business?”
And keeping with the Old Firm, Martin Samuel makes the case against Rangers & Celtic joining the English league. “The most powerful argument against including Celtic and Rangers, however, is sewn into the fabric of the clubs. English football has enough strife, without importing a culture of religious bigotry. Celtic and Rangers may have fought admirably against a sectarian tendency within their support in recent years, but that does not mean it has been banished. This is significant, because when a new follower chooses his side he absorbs everything about it, the history, the rivalries, the whole irrational package.”
Heading over to Germany, Gabriele Marcotti analyses the problems facing Bayern Munich. “The result is a team lacking in every department. The defence is shaky at goalkeeper and left back (unless Lahm plays there, in which case the problem shifts to the other flank). The midfield lacks personality and speed of thought. The front line is fine on the wings, but the revolving door at centre forward is bound to keep everyone unhappy.”
The rant of the day comes from Alan Fraser, who criticises the BBC’s Football Focus show. “The BBCâ€™s obsession with trying to make their sporting programmes accessible to a wider public is never going to work with something like Football Focus. What sane viewer not interested in football is going to watch a football programme at 12.15pm on a Saturday? The clue is in the title and the legacy of an institution that goes back to the Seventies.”
In the gossip columns, Daniel King teases Pompey fans with news that “two businessmen are to throw the club a Â£15million lifeline… It is understood that further investment will be required to fund spending in January, possibly secured against future television rights payments.”
The big transfer news (in frankly an old and tired story) comes from John Cross, farting “Thierry Henry is a target for New York Red Bulls, who have revived their interest in the former Arsenal captain.”