After the vindication of the manager, a dose of cold truth about how little Liverpool have progressed with his newfound riches this season. Jamie Carragher might have enjoyed the limelight in the demolition of Luton Town on Tuesday night but he has become the first of Rafael Benitez's players to concede that the league title is beyond them this season. Would he ever win it at Anfield? "Only time will tell. I haven't got a clue," he said.
It was not exactly a ringing endorsement of Benitez by the 29-year-old, whose views on the club for whom he has now played 500 times are more valuable than most. The defender questioned Tom Hicks's public revelations about the pursuit of Jürgen Klinsmann but was brave enough to say that Benitez has not yet delivered what Liverpool really want. "It doesn't look like it is going to be this season," he said of the side's title aspirations. "He [Benitez] has done very well but the league is the one we want."
Liverpool's future is uncertain in so many ways – suggestions that a £350m deal for the club is on the table makes the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett foremost among them – and the lack of clarity leaves Carragher pondering whether he will ever collect the championship medal he so covets. "[It] would be lovely [to win the title] before I finish of course," said Carragher. "In four or five years' time it might all be coming to an end for me [and] picking up any trophy is special now given how tough it is domestically."
But when presented with a get-out clause for his manager – the relative spending power of Chelsea and Manchester United – he did not take it. "It makes it more difficult, the spending power of other clubs, but you only have to look at Arsenal – they don't spend the big money and they have won a lot under Arsène Wenger," he said.
There are signs in Benitez's way with the players that some things have changed in his demeanour. Steven Gerrard, for example, revealed he had persuaded the Spaniard not to substitute him after he had scored two goals on Tuesday and as a result he clinched only his second hat-trick for the club. It was a contrast to the kind of Benitez froideur which, in his autobiography, Gerrard said he found so difficult when the Spaniard arrived. A simmering row followed Gerrard's substitution at Everton earlier this season.
Carragher knows Liverpool have a huge mountain to climb, starting with the visit of Aston Villa on Monday. "We are not stupid, you never throw the towel in but for us to get back into contention for the title we would have to have an unbelievable second half to the season and the rest would have to have an unbelievably bad second half," he said. "We realise our best chance of silverware is the cup competitions. That's why they are so important."