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.