Monday’s papers on the Old Trafford massacre

The jury is starting to return after Saturday’s fantastic 1-4 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford and this morning’s papers give a mixture of reports.

Some say United were awful, some say Liverpool were brilliant, some say Rafa was a genius and some question the state of mind of Ferguson. Some say it’s too little, too late for Liverpool, whilst others see it as the start of United’s wheels falling off.

Whatever, whatever, Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool. And that is a fact!

Amid the analysing of how both Untied and Liverpool’s seasons are going to go from here, there’s lots of praise for the game’s referee, Alan Wiley, who under immense pressure, produced a strong performance.

Former Premier League referee starts the plaudits for his ex-colleague in the Daily Mail:

Alan Wiley had a number of these decisions to make and the fact that he got every important call correct is testament to his detection of offences and that, with his vast experience, he is a top referee well capable of controlling this type of encounter.

Patrick Barclay of The Times continues the praise of Wiley:

Overall, I thought Wiley gave an excellent performance, one that enhanced a view that he and the similarly underrated Andre Marriner threaten Howard Webb’s place at the top of the profession.

But Barclay does pick up on a piece of the game that Wiley missed, or wrongly judged that could have seen United defender Nemanja Vidic sent off long before his second half dismissal.

After 31 minutes, with the score 1-1, Fernando Torres slipped the ball past Vidic in the penalty area. Vidic illicitly blocked Torres, then grappled with him and finally knocked him over. The multiple offence took so long that Rio Ferdinand was able to trot round and provide cover, protecting his colleague from the possibility of a red card.

The issue did not arise, however, because Alan Wiley’s whistle remained silent. The referee had been equally merciful to a defender early in the match, before either side had scored, when Ferdinand ‘œstood his ground’ (to use one of those annoyingly meaningless phrases that proliferate in football) and used his braced rump to deny Torres a run on goal.

The praise for Liverpool and Rafa Benitez is spread throughout this morning’s back pages in abundance. Why would it not? Eight goals against two of Europe’s most feared clubs in the space of a week, and the bragging rights that pride really belongs to Merseyside after completing the league double over their arch rivals. Beautiful stuff.

Jamie Redknapp was thoroughly impressed by Jamie Carragher’s performance, and believes he should be given more praise. Writing in this morning’s Daily Mail:

He doesn’t like playing at right back and only found out two minutes before kick off. Still, his performance was faultless.

We’re definitely in for a tense finish to the season, as Andy Hunter writes in the Guardian:

Rafael Benítez and Sir Alex Ferguson shared only a brief handshake at Old Trafford but the Liverpool manager believes the impact of their encounter will linger at Manchester United. While Rio Ferdinand claimed Saturday’s emphatic defeat would remove any complacency from the champions, Benítez insisted Liverpool’s resurgent form could take United to the wire in their pursuit of a record-equalling 18th league title.

In a great piece of journalism by The Independent’s Sam Wallace, the writer comments on the interview with Wayne Rooney in the build-up to the game. The former Everton striker publicly said he ‘œhates’ Liverpool, which caused a bit of media controversy. But Wallace says the hate footballers feel is fully justified by the abuse they receive on the pitch.

Rooney is not the only one to have expressed strong opinions about opposing clubs. In his autobiography, Steven Gerrard wrote: “I was taught to loathe Manchester United, their fans, players, manager, kit-man, mascot, megastore-workers ‘“ everyone associated with Old Trafford.” He too was conditioned as a young fan and then, as he became a player, it was reinforced by the abuse he gets from the stands.

It’s an interesting and well written article worth reading, so click here to go to the Independent’s web site.
Meanwhile, we finish with another good piece in this morning’s Independent from Ian Herbert, who claims Alex Ferguson has been rattled by Benitez’s shrewd mind games and tactics. The Scot was clearly outfoxed on Saturday afternoon.

The power of the unconscious mind. That is what Sir Alex Ferguson will learn about if, as he has suggested, he consults Sigmund Freud to help him understand Rafael Benitez. Someone needs to tell him he will be reading the wrong books. Benitez already knows his Freud, of course ‘“ from “when I was in school and university”, as he said on Saturday evening ‘“ but there was nothing unconscious about the way he accomplished Liverpool’s most overwhelming win at Old Trafford in 73 years and his calm explanation of it will offer Ferguson another reason to fear the Spaniard ‘“ as he certainly does ‘“ this morning.

Nine games to go, nine lives as it were, and Liverpool are beginning to purr.