Benitez rails at United's 'lucky penalty'

Liverpool manager goads Ferguson after highlighting tough run-in for title rivals

Yes, the penalty Howard Webb awarded Manchester United last Saturday really did sting Rafael Benitez. "The lucky penalty" was the way the Liverpool manager described it yesterday and there is little doubt that thoughts of Manchester United are whirring around at the front of that mechanical mind of his.

Benitez, whose run-in is to be boosted by an imminent new five-year deal for Danish central defender Daniel Agger, has identified precisely which of Manchester United's remaining fixtures are most likely to cause them trouble, with recent experience telling him Middlesbrough, this lunchtime, and Hull City are amongst them, as well as Arsenal and Manchester City at Old Trafford.

In fact, only Wigan Athletic – United's game in hand – was not on his list as he expounded on why United, whom Liverpool could trail by six points before Newcastle United arrive at Anfield tomorrow, will be a ghost at United's shoulder until the bitter end. "You never know in football what can happen but clearly if you want to pick some games you would say City and Arsenal are very difficult," he said. "Middlesbrough as we know is difficult for them. Hull away is not easy. So why not? It's important to keep winning our games and maybe you will have a chance. You have to do your job."

Sir Alex Ferguson said Benitez should stick to his own knitting when the Spaniard discussed United before their Champions League quarter-final first leg against Chelsea, so he will be irritated to know that Benitez was pointing out why Howard Webb should have realised the challenge by Tottenham Hotspur's Heurelho Gomes on Michael Carrick was legitimate, seven days ago. "When you are running in this way and the ball goes in this way it is because someone has touched it," he said.

But painful though last Saturday might have been, it taught Benitez – who contrary to some reports has not inquired after Marseilles captain Lorik Cana – that Hull City on the last day of the season is a difficult last game for United. "The conditions of the pitch and the other team – it's not easy to play at the same level [there]," he said. Benitez believes there was something of Ferguson's side in the way Liverpool still managed to win 3-1. "I don't know how many games United won 1-0 without playing at the same level? I think it was a lot," he said, his main adversaries still on his mind. "It's part of what you have to learn if you want to win titles."

Benitez's prospects against Newcastle are boosted by the return, after four weeks' absence with a groin strain, of Steven Gerrard – whose presence with Torres has a psychological effect on the opposition, the Spaniard believes. Benitez continues to provide the impression that he has a single big-name target on his mind for the summer and, intriguingly, he suggested yesterday that Gerrard may, if necessary, have to revert to a deeper midfield role to make way for any offensive midfielder – Valencia's David Silva is one he admires – who is signed to partner Torres. "Stevie can play also as a midfielder," Benitez said.

"It depends on the quality and the level of the players who can manage with different systems. With him you know he can play on the right, in the middle as a second striker or on the left. It's not a big difference because he is a clever player and has his quality. You have to use his quality, in whichever position." That is what Benitez said when Robbie Keane arrived, so it may be a difficult juggling act.

Benitez is hopeful of keeping his reserve keeper, Brazilian Diego Cavalieri, despite several bids. In the meantime, there is the prospect of Newcastle who, judging by Liverpool's 5-1 win at St James' in December, make this a less awkward weekend than United's.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'