Liverpool 6 Hull 1: Fernando Torres... is this the only man who can stop United?
Eight goals in seven games and Fernando Torres is on fire again, shrugging off early- season doubts about his form. Just ask Hull after his stunning hat-trick which left them totally bewildered. No wonder Manchester City and Chelsea made enquiries about him in the summer but were told by manager Rafa Benitez: 'He is one player money can't buy.' Torres's contribution at Liverpool has become so important that the club's hopes of ending a wait which has turned into an obsession over the past two decades - regaining the league title - may rest on him. Three and easy: Fernando Torres strokes in the first goal of his hat-trick Manchester United's rise to top place over the weekend represents a familiar obstacle, but if anyone can knock them off their perch, to coin a phrase favoured by Sir Alex Ferguson, it is surely the Spain striker. Keeping him fit is crucial - many believe Liverpool would have won the title last season if he had not missed 14 league games - if the title is to return to Anfield for the first time since 1990. Sir Alex equalled Liverpool's record of 18 championships last season and it seems Torres stands between him and No 19. After his brilliant performance in the thrashing of Phil Brown's side, Benitez reflected on the 25-year-old's impact since arriving from Atletico Madrid for a club record �21million in 2007. Number two: Torres side-steps Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill before slotting in 'That was an awful lot of money for us, but I never had the slightest doubt he would be worth every penny,' he said. 'I made it clear at the time that I thought it was cheap, and that has been borne out. Hopefully, we will be saying that for years to come, because I can see him getting even better. 'We drew up a list of 10 strikers at the time and went through their strengths and weaknesses. In each category, Torres came top. 'You just wonder how much he is worth now. It is difficult to put a figure on it, but it must be at least �70million. During the summer, there were some agents acting for English clubs who contacted us to ask what the price would be. They were talking about big, big figures, but we left them in no doubt he was not for sale. Not at any price. 'People say every player has a price, but Fernando hasn't. Money cannot buy him. I think he will be happy with that, too, because he is very settled here. There is more to come from him because, for all his outstanding ability, he still has a real eagerness to learn.' Treble: Liverpool's star striker fools Paul McShane to complete his hat-trick Torres tormented Hull from the start, his opening goal coming after a trademark switch of the ball from right to left foot before whipping his shot into the far corner. After a volleyed equaliser by Geovanni, the Spaniard kept his cool again for a delightful second and duped Ibrahima Sonko once more for his hat-trick goal in the 47th minute. There was nothing Hull could do about the audacity of Steven Gerrard's cross-shot from near the touchline, as it soared and dipped over Boaz Myhill for Liverpool's fourth in the 61st minute. As Brown pointed out, there was plenty they could have done to prevent the mayhem that followed, as Liverpool withdrew Gerrard and Torres to save them for Champions League duty at Fiorentina tomorrow, but still threatened a record winning margin. Two goals from Ryan Babel scarcely reflected the disarray in the Hull ranks, and while Brown appreciated another expression of support from chairman Paul Duffen, his mood could hardly have been more sombre. MATCH STATSLIVERPOOL (4-4-1-1): Reina 6; Johnson 7, Carragher 6, Skrtel 6, Insua 7; Benayoun 6 (Voronin 77min, 6), Gerrard 8 (Mascherano 74, 6), Lucas 7, Riera 7; Kuyt 6; Torres 9 (Babel 67, 7). Booked: Skrtel. HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill 6; McShane 5, Sonko 4, Cooper 7, Dawson 6; Geovanni 6 (Altidore 83), Boateng 6, Kilbane 5 (Marney 63), Hunt 6; Ghilas 6, Vennegoor of Hesselink 6 (Cousin 63). Booked: Kilbane, Hunt, Marney. Man of the match: Fernando Torres. Referee: Peter Walton. There was none of the swagger of last season, when he conducted the travelling fans' vocal acclaim for a 2-2 draw, as he said: 'I'm facing the biggest test of my managerial career, but I'm going to tackle it head on. 'The most important relationship in any club is between the chairman and manager, but the one between manager and players isn't far behind. That has taken a battering, because a few harsh words have been flying around. 'Certain people in the dressing room are backing away from their responsibility. That much is clear to anyone and it has to change. There are one or two solid characters in the squad, but they have to step up to the plate. 'I just wish I could copy the Fabio Capello approach of two strikes and you're out. It was demoralising for me to watch us gift goals to Torres and throw the towel in, once he scored their third early in the second half. 'There is a bit of pain going round at the moment and the players have to share it. I still believe we are good enough to turn this round, but the players have to prove it.' Even after a defeat that could have reached double-figure proportions, Duffen remained resolute. He said: 'Without question, the team are all playing for each other and for the manager. Any speculation about Phil's position is nothing more than mischief-making.' 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