Manchester United are not untouchable says Liverpool's Rafael Benitez

21 February 2009 09:23
Then there were two. So rampant are Manchester United that trying to keep pace with Sir Alex Ferguson cost Luiz Felipe Scolari his job and Arsene Wenger has labelled the Scot's side untouchable. Now only Liverpool and Rafa Benitez remain unbowed.

The Spaniard has good reason not to cede defeat, despite United's imperious form. In his second title season with Valencia in 2004, with 12 games to go, Benitez's side stood eight points behind Real Madrid.

Valencia, of course, went on to win that title, and win it in style. They finished five points ahead of Barcelona, with Real seven points adrift.

Despite the bad news that Steven Gerrard has not recovered from a hamstring strain to face Manchester City tomorrow and will only know on Monday if he will make Wednesday's Champions League tie with Real Madrid, a five point lead is not nearly enough for Benitez to follow Wenger's lead and throw his shield at Ferguson's feet just yet.

He said: "It would be better if we had a five point lead on them, but clearly you can manage it if you win some games in a row. We did that at Valencia and it gave us more confidence, and it is the same here. It is too much to say United are untouchable.

"They won a lot of games 1-0 and then they have scored three or four in a couple of games and everyone has been talking as though they were playing well for the whole season. But you can see a lot of games where they were not playing well.

"Clearly we cannot say we think they are unbeatable. We have to think we can win our next games, then go to Old Trafford and win." If Liverpool are to catch and overhaul their great rivals, then Benitez knows they must start to take games by the scruff of the neck early on, rather than leaving it until the last minute to snatch victory, as they did against Portsmouth two weeks ago.

Tomorrow's visitors have already felt the full effect of a Liverpool late show, losing 3-2 at Eastlands thanks to a last minute Dirk Kuyt strike. Refusing to give in is a fine characteristic, but if Benitez is to protect his players from burnout, he needs them to kill games off.

He said: "It would be easier for the team, for the fans, for my heart if we scored early. It is better to score in the first half when you have had plenty of possession, as we did at Portsmouth.

"I watched the tape and there were three clips in the first 10 minutes. We have been controlling these games but it would be so different if we scored the first goal. If you do, they open up and you have more space."

Source: Telegraph