Date: 16th March 2009 at 9:25am
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Rafa Benitez claims that his team have exposed United’s weaknesses and that other teams must take note and do the same. The papers sing the songs of Benitez’s tactical mastery – but isn’t this view a tad lopsided?

Well of course it is. Here’s Benitez’s guide on how to beat United.

‘Maybe this is a message for the rest of the Premier League that they can be beaten here.’

‘United have weaknesses. They have a lot of quality in attack. They are strong in defence because they have plenty of possession. But when they don’t have the ball and you move the ball quickly and play behind the defenders you know you can beat them.’


Well… it sounds good, yeah. The truth, however, is that United, albeit playing well below their usual high standards, were firmly in control after taking the lead with Ronaldo’s coolly taken penalty. Benitez’s Liverpool aimed to kill our game, to take the life out of our midfield and front line by having Mascherano and Lucas snapping at the ankles of Tevez and Rooney while Aurelio and Riera doubled up on Ronaldo.

United struggled to create chances, that’s right but after 1-0 we could and should have won the game despite Benitez’s perceived master tactics. It was a hopeless punt upfields which brought about the equaliser and if Benitez hopes that Vidic (or his replacement Jonny Evans who’ll surely play in the next three games) is going to commit such atrocious mistakes regularly – well good luck, hope springs eternal.

Yeah, Liverpool’s route one football rattled our backline because they had a bad day and because they weren’t protected by the midfield as Anderson was having the day off. However, the rest of the Premier League sides do not have a Fernando Torres in their ranks and surely won’t encounter such a shaky United defence again.

Evra won’t commit needless fouls every game – hopefully. He’s not prone to stupid mistakes, he’s the world’s most consistent left-back and off-days such as Saturday are incredibly rare in his case.

And how did the third goal come about? Yeah, an aimless punt, flicked on by Kuyt and another DREADFUL Vidic error. Liverpool had one chance: they equalised. During their next concerted attack Evra gave away a penalty, 1-2. With their third real attack came Vidic’s sending off and the free-kick.

They punished our schoolboy errors, that’s right. Tactical masterplan it wasn’t: they sat back, hoping for mistakes and relying on Torres’ pace. It worked this time – but the exact same tactics a year ago brought a heavy 3-0 defeat for Liverpool, simply because United did not commit these mistakes. We beat ourselves – we won’t do that often.