Torres picks the lock for Benitez's latest escape

Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0

It might just be the decision that saved Rafael Benitez's Liverpool career and he made it somewhere on Queens Drive, that innocuous ring road around the city that connects the training ground with Anfield. It was as the team coach drove to the ground that Benitez said he asked Fernando Torres if he was fit to play, and the rest is history.

English football's great managerial escapologist once again picked the lock on the chains around him with a win that turned Liverpool's rapidly diminishing season upon its head. Benitez has mastered the art of the shock victory to the extent that even in the midst of this improbable Liverpool performance, there was something strangely familiar about it. This manager has made the remarkable predictable.

Of course, the problems that afflicted Liverpool through the four defeats that preceded this game do not go away with one sweep of Torres' boot. Benitez has still made a lot of bad signings and is still prone to bizarre decisions, but yesterday he re-affirmed to the club's owners and his adoring fans the old Benitez mystique. The power to pull a result from nowhere.

In Steven Gerrard's absence, Torres was magnificent. Having told his manager at the 11th hour that he was fit, he bullied Rio Ferdinand, further reducing the standing of the England defender who was watched by Fabio Capello's assistant Franco Baldini. Ferdinand just bounced off Torres as the latter ran through to score. Lucky for him that Matthew Upson is in no kind of form to take his place in the England team.

The result left Anfield the happiest dysfunctional family you will ever see. The day began with the protest march against owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett before the game; it ended with a directors' box full of middle-aged American blokes in suits exchanging embarrassing high-fives. In the Kop and around the ground, the divisions were put aside to focus on one common enemy.

The game was won by Torres but in its crucial moments players such as Jamie Carragher, Lucas Leiva and Javier Mascherano, later sent off, made interventions that turned out to be vital. Carragher was formidable even if he rode his luck. First, he ploughed into Michael Carrick in the penalty area in the first half and later seemed to catch Michael Owen around the waist as the striker broke through. He was lucky not to be dismissed.

Asked about it later in his post-match interviews, Carragher affected shock at the suggestion that he should have been sent off. He will know when he watches it again that he was fortunate: Owen was in on goal. But this was a benchmark performance from a great old pro, and there was nothing lucky about his challenge that came out of nowhere to block Wayne Rooney's shot on 77 minutes.

The difference was that Carragher was making tackles, taking risks and, ultimately, playing a part in deciding the game. Ferdinand just seemed to abstain, especially in his half-hearted attempt to challenge Torres in the build-up to the goal. It was no coincidence that Vidic was eventually sent off for two bookable offences, when he was left to deal with the worst of it by his defensive partner.

Stretched to breaking point, United conceded a second in time added on when David Ngog ran through and slotted past Edwin Van der Sar just like, well, just like Michael Owen once did in front of the Kop.

So what about Owen? When United turn up at Anfield these days, the home fans are spoiled for choice. Once it was Sir Alex Ferguson they despised most, then for obvious reasons it was Rooney. After strenuous efforts on his part, Gary Neville inherited the mantle of hatred and now it is Owen. "Once a Manc, never a red" sang the Kop yesterday, excommunicating at a stroke the man who scored 158 goals for them.

Yes, there was hatred and bitterness in the air – as well as beach balls at both ends of the ground. And what a game, too. It was tempting to say that the difference was in the two No 9s. Torres, scoring his 34th league goal in 35 home games, was lethal. Dimitar Berbatov, with his stroppy outbursts at Antonio Valencia, was dreadful.

But United also seemed caught out by Benitez's decision to play with two strikers in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation. Paul Scholes was United's best player in the first half, but even he found himself ambushed in a dangerous position by Lucas in the 18th minute. United looked best when they got Valencia into the game, but they did not do that enough. Six minutes from the end, the Ecuadorean hit the bar when played in by Owen.

That was arguably United's best effort and it came on 84 minutes, a telling insight into the level of their performance. When Liverpool scored on 65 minutes the game was in the balance, but it was Torres who tipped it their way. Dirk Kuyt found Yossi Benayoun who played a perfect ball into the right channel for Torres to run onto. He held off Ferdinand and beat Van der Sar at the near post.

Vidic had been booked earlier for a silly trip on Torres by the touchline and there was no doubt that he would go for his second offence. With United stretched, Kuyt got away from Vidic on the halfway line and he reacted instinctively. He hauled down Kuyt as crudely as he had brought down Torres in the game at Old Trafford last season and did not bother to wait around for the red card.

Mascherano had been late on Patrice Evra in the first half for his first booking, but his second was an inexplicably late tackle on Van der Sar as the mood of the game seemed to get to him. That was before United, throwing everything into attack, fell victim to the break and Lucas played in Ngog for the second goal.

Ferguson conceded that Liverpool deserved their victory, which was remarkable given that he did not even go that far when Liverpool won 4-1 at Old Trafford last season. Maybe he senses that for all the sound and fury around Liverpool yesterday, they are still a long way from title contenders.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua; Benayoun (Skrtel, 90), Mascherano, Lucas, Aurelio; Kuyt, Torres (Ngog, 81). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Voronin, Babel, Spearing, Degen.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Scholes (Nani, 74), Giggs; Berbatov (Owen, 74), Rooney. Substitutes not used: Foster (gk), Neville, Anderson, F Da Silva, Evans.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Liverpool Mascherano, Carragher; Manchester United Evra, Berbatov, Vidic.

Sent off: Liverpool Mascherano; Man Utd Vidic.

Man of the match: Carragher.

Attendance: 44,188.

Red peril: United's card count against Liverpool

*Nemanja Vidic was yesterday sent off against Liverpool for the third league match in succession.

13 Sept 2008: Liverpool 2 Manchester United 1 Dismissed in injury time for leading with elbow on Xabi Alonso, with game already lost.

14 Mar 2009: Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4 Brought Steven Gerrard down as the last man with United 2-1 down and 15 minutes remaining.

25 Oct 2009: Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0 Hauled down Dirk Kuyt on halfway as Reds counter-attack.



*Vidic's red card was the sixth United dismissal at Anfield in 10 years, and the fourth in six seasons.



5 May 1999: Liverpool 2 Man Utd 2 Denis Irwin sent off, 75

11 Sep 1999: Liverpool 2 Man Utd 3 ......... Andy Cole sent off, 71

15 Jan 2005: Liverpool 0 Man Utd 1 Wes Brown sent off, 65

3 Mar 2007: Liverpool 0 Man Utd 1 Paul Scholes sent off, 86

13 Sept 2008: Liverpool 2 Man Utd 1 Vidic sent off, 90

25 Oct 2009: Liverpool 2 Man Utd 0 Vidic sent off, 90

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker