The Football Association will take no action against Fernando Torres for scuffing up the penalty spot in Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, even though the referee Howard Webb concluded he would have booked the Spaniard had he seen the incident.
Though Torres' action, which appeared to set off the touchline dispute between the two managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez on Sunday, represented probable improper conduct, the FA has no authority to impose a second yellow card retrospectively. Torres was booked later in the game for a wild swing at Park Ji-sung.
Though United had no expectation that Torres would be dealt with retrospectively, Webb's conclusion, having viewed a DVD of the match, that his offence warranted a caution, will cause a few wry smiles at Old Trafford.
Ferguson claimed on Friday that the case of the Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard not receiving a red card for his apparent elbow thrust at Michael Brown, while Rio Ferdinand was banned for four games for a similar incident with Craig Fagan of Hull City, proved Liverpool got preferential treatment. "Yes, we know [they] get the breaks," Ferguson reflected. "They do all right. They are lucky like that. Maybe one day we will get lucky."
There were no indications yesterday that Wayne Rooney, limping as he left Old Trafford on Sunday night, had been injured or needed treatment.
Meanwhile, Liverpool's Spanish left winger Albert Riera is due back at the Melwood training ground today after his suspension following an outburst against Benitez last week in which he declared that Liverpool were a "sinking ship." Riera will be transfer-listed and is expected to leave the club by the end of the week, with a £6m fee likely to come Liverpool's way as the player heads to CSKA Moscow. That is a £2m loss on a player who has played for Liverpool 47 times, 12 times this season.
The loss is more than offset by the prospect of a new contract for the midfielder Javier Mascherano, who seemed to be edging towards a move to Barcelona last summer, but has returned to fine form, having reconciled himself to remaining at Anfield. The two parties have been talking over a new deal for the Argentina captain for some time and Benitez is confident the matter will be resolved. Mascherano is expected to command a salary of about £90,000 a week, with Liverpool keen to tie him to a new long-term contract to prevent another close season of speculation in a World Cup year.
Liverpool could fall five points behind Manchester City, with a game more played, if Roberto Mancini's side beat Everton tomorrow night, though Jamie Carragher insisted yesterday that the club's top four aspirations were not dead if they could win their remaining seven matches.
"We have just got to recover from this as quickly as possible and get on a run of victories," Carragher said. "Of course we believe we can still close the gap. They [Liverpool's rivals] will have difficult spells and we have got to make sure we take maximum points when they do. Maybe there will be more criticism of us now and at a club like Liverpool the pressure is never off. Things are a bit more difficult but we have still got lots of points to play for."
Manchester United's Paul Scholes also declared the need to win every game in the run-in. "Winning the League is a brilliant feeling and I hope we can do it again this season because it would be great to win four in a row," he said. "Bringing the trophy to Old Trafford three times on the trot was a big achievement, but now we want to go a step further. The chance of making history doesn't drive me on. I want to win every game and every trophy, whether it's the first time I've won it or the 10th."