Ben­itez woe

The Jewish Chronicle - - Sport -

wick­ets, but fail when the go­ing gets tough. And this time, the buck does stop with Ben­itez. As Graeme Souness, the for­mer Liver­pool man­ager pointed out, he has had five years to mould his team, so can­not con­tinue hid­ing be­hind the skirts of a frac­tious board.

Also, it was his de­ci­sion to re­place the hugely in­flu­en­tial Xabi Alonso with a player who ar­rived in­jured: Al­berto Aquilani of AS Roma, £20m and yet to be seen. Los­ing Alonso was a blow, but he had al­ready been alien­ated by Ben­itez’s pur­suit of Gareth Barry a year pre­vi­ously. Never for­get that if Barry’s deal had gone through Alonso would have been a Ju­ven­tus player 12 months ear­lier. Ben­itez was cer­tainly will­ing to sell.

This week brings Manch­ester United and, af­ter de­feat by Lyons, a good deal of whistling to keep spir­its up. It is said that there is no bet­ter way for Liver­pool to get back on track than by beat­ing their great­est ri­vals. Yet Liver­pool are meant to be more than a glo­ri­fied cup side, able to raise their game and pull it off in one big match. That is where they were five years ago un­der Ben­itez, winning the Cham­pi­ons League with a se­ries of ex­cel­lent, iso­lated, per­for­mances, hold­ing on to a slen­der lead against Chelsea, de­feat­ing Ju­ven­tus, mak­ing a stun­ning sec­ond-half come­back against AC Mi­lan.

Liver­pool are trapped in the past. If they beat United — and Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s team is vul­ner­a­ble, make no mis­take of that — what does it mat­ter un­less that form is main­tained and turned into some­thing tan­gi­ble? Not winning is one thing. If Ben­itez can­not con­test, he will be out, what­ever Mour­inho says.

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