Rafa boost for Red Devils

2010-04-28 10:47

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Forget any conspiratorial talk of a Liverpool “rollover” at the hands of Chelsea in the engrossing English Premiership race at Anfield this Sunday.

That is the rosiest development Manchester United enthusiasts can take comfort from after Chelsea took a more crucial step closer to the title than the defending champions did over the weekend – although both teams in the two-way tussle won.

First United struck fairly late to down previously in-form Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, but then Chelsea pulverised Stoke City 7-0 on Sunday to maintain a precious one-point lead with two rounds of matches left.

It left the Blues (80 points) within two enticing wins – against Liverpool away and Wigan Athletic at home respectively – of guaranteeing the spoils without even having to worry, in that event, about United’s fate against Sunderland (away) and Stoke (home).

Chelsea also improved their goal difference significantly in plundering the Potters, of course: they now sport clear-cut, eight-goal superiority over Alex Ferguson’s charges, who boast 79 points.

Not that that ought to be a factor in the run-in now: it will probably only come into play if Chelsea earn two draws, taking them to a total of 82 points, while United win one and lose one to end on that tally too.

The biggest remaining “banana peel” match for either of the title-chasers is rightly considered to be Chelsea’s trip to Anfield on Sunday.

There had been some mischievous speculation a few days ago – and make that “anxious” from a United fans’ perspective – that Liverpool, assuming they were out of the running for fourth place and a Champions League slot, might let Chelsea win.

It was based on the historical theory, albeit a slightly tenuous one, that the Reds would prefer a Chelsea title win because it would prevent their bitter enemies United from finally edging ahead of them 19-18 in league titles – the teams presently share the lead comfortably on 18 apiece from Arsenal’s 13.

Such a petty scenario would have been highly unlikely, by my book, because any Liverpool-Chelsea scrap tends to be as full-blooded as most, but the good news for Manchester United supporters is that Rafa Benitez’s side (seventh at present) remain in fairly realistic contention for lucrative fourth place.

And that will still be the case on Sunday, whatever happens in matches involving Tottenham, Aston Villa and Manchester City - the teams immediately above them - a day earlier (City are actually entertaining Villa, while Spurs host Bolton).

Liverpool presently have 62 points from 36 games, while fourth-placed Spurs have 64 from 35 – the latter have a game in hand, against Manchester City, which will only be played on the Wednesday after this weekend’s programme.

Another boost for Liverpool’s late assault on fourth is that their goal difference is currently better than any of the trio above them, so climbing three positions by the finish is not quite the stuff of fairytale only.

They also have decent momentum, having come off 3-0 and 4-0 victories against West Ham and Burnley respectively, and remain firmly in the hunt for the Europa League title - they trail just 1-0 to Atletico Madrid after a first-leg semi-final and play the return at Anfield on Thursday, although that could mean some reasonably tired legs by Sunday.

In a television interview after the away thumping of Burnley confirmed that club’s relegation, Benitez would have put some unusual smiles on Manchester United dials when he confirmed his side would maintain their charge for fourth place: “Yes, it is an option, so we must do our job.”

If that “job” includes beating - or at least holding - Chelsea on Sunday (the Reds claimed the corresponding fixture 2-0 last season), the cheers from Manchester may be more deafening than any you will ever hear again from that city for the Liverpool cause …


  • seeps - 2010-04-28 10:55

    Some one get me the words to you'll never walk alone....... Go on Liverpool and yes I am a United fan..... But come Sunday I will be wearing a United Jersey and drinking beer with my Liverpool mates hoping they can do one for United. Sunday I will consider Liverpool a big club.

  • LIVERPOOL ALL THE WAY - 2010-04-28 11:03

    Im a Liverpool die hard fan but looking at it realistically there is no way we can beat Chelsea this season.

  • Skillz - 2010-04-28 11:11

    You never walk alone, because United will be there right beside you making sure you help us win the tittle.

  • Lamps_8 - 2010-04-28 11:30

    Whoever thinks Liverpool will Lye down and take a beating come Sunday is a Total moron.Its going to be Chelsea's biggest game this season.The EPL is at stake & CFC Know Pool are never an easy team to play against.Liverpool will bring their best,I just hope the Mighty Blues can stand up to the Challnge ahead.CFC4LIFE!

  • Red - 2010-04-28 11:48

    We beat Utd, we can beat Chelsea

  • juju - 2010-04-28 11:51

    Chelsa is taking it lets just accept it,Liver Pool wont allow Man U, to over take them with League Tittles.ITS 18-18 NOW!!

  • clive mabiya - 2010-04-28 12:04

    it is such a shame that united have to rely on the fools in order stand a chance to clinch the title,well i got news for you boys come sunday chelsea will beat the know what out of those fools I BELONG TO JT'S BLUE ARMY oh and united fans please bring some beach balls for the sunderland game...ask Liveverpool its fantastic what those balls can do.

  • Rodders - 2010-04-28 12:15

    What would be really intersting is if Liverpool beat Chelsea, but Roy Keane's Sunderland hold manure to at least a draw -- then the goal difference issue would also come into it, and it would be quite something to see a title decided only on goal difference. Last time that happened (and it was actually only on 'goals for', as goal difference was the same) was in 1989, when Arsenal pipped Liverpool to the title in the final game of the season at Anfield!!

  • Gmeister - 2010-04-28 12:35

    As a Liverpool supporter we should win tomorrow night's game against atletico madrid and advance to the final and then play poorly against chelsea and win the europa final so we can be able to advance to champs league, we do need dat cash after all f@3k man utd we mstn't let surpass our 18 league titles.

  • ManUtd4Eva - 2010-04-28 12:36

    Go Liverpool!!!!!!!

  • Gmeister - 2010-04-28 12:43

    As a Liverpool supporter we should win tomorrow night's game against atletico madrid and advance to the final and then play poorly against chelsea and win the europa final so we can be able to advance to champs league, we do need dat cash after all f@3k man utd we mstn't let surpass our 18 league titles.

  • @rodders - 2010-04-28 12:52

    The fact that you dont even know that keane left sunderland and has been coaching ipswich since April 2009 dumps your whole comment down the drain. Its actually another man utd player (steve bruce in the driving seat now).

  • rico - 2010-04-28 12:57

    winning the europa league is not a apassage into champions it?

  • JAPES - 2010-04-28 12:58

    UM Roy Keanes Sunderland? He was let go long time ago already

  • up da fools - 2010-04-28 13:15

    who wtites these scripts , shakespeare , the fools are in a tough situation, beat chelsea and most probably the champions reatain the title for the unprecedented 4th time and just as unprecedented 19th time. the fools have not achieved both. lose to the blue buns (err bums) AND THEIR GOES ALL CHANCES FOR EUROPE AND ALL DIGNITY FOR THE FOOLS. Literature , this is ...

  • AJ - 2010-04-28 14:10

    @Gmeister: Don't you wish that by winning the Europa cup will mean a place in the Champs League! That is will never happen. All this talk about Liverpool trying to finish in 4th spot is rubbish! You guys need to concentrate on retaining 7th spot as that will qualify you for next seasons Europa league as a result of Portsmourth financial problems. Everton is not far behind and can easily pip you to 7th meaning that you will have f-all Europe action next season! Now you Liverfool supporters, it's time you "walk the talk" and stop singing that "you will never walk alone" cr@p and dump those Blue Londeners out of the EPL!!! Do it for your Man Utd brothers!

  • Gmeister - 2010-04-28 14:25

    @AJ why must Liverpool do anything for idiots like man utd y? Last i knew in sport it's every team/man for themselves it will be bad for eufa if Liverpool don't play in any of europe's tournaments next season, we're a big draw card

  • @Gmeister - 2010-04-28 14:47

    DURRRRRRRRRRR , incase nobody told you ., playing in EUROPE must be EARNED by the various criteria available. YOU CANT PLAY JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE LIVERFOOLS hahahahahaha

  • AJ - 2010-04-28 14:48

    @Gmeister: Yeah you right! The Europa league will not be the same without Liverfool! You guys should own that league because it will be your home tournament for years to come, especially with the emergence of Spurs and Man City! By the way, why would you even think that Liverfool will play badly against Chelsea on Sun? Or are you hoping that they play badly for poop reasons? I thought Liverfool supporters would love their team win always? Shame....thought wrong! By the way, Wigan will provide a stiffer opponent for Chelsea!

  • seeps - 2010-04-28 15:19

    Gmeister - tut tut young man. "Big Drawcard" u say? you need to be a big club and by that I mean a top 4 finish n into The Champions LeagueTHEN u can be classified as a Big Drawcard!!!! Moron!!! You sound so sad dude, Liverpool have a pruoud heritage and will not just roll over and die as some (idiotic and bitter) fans may wish them to do. Also You REALLY don't want Everton to finish above you, that'll be worse than having United take away top spot from you.

  • Richard - 2010-04-28 15:31

    Manure must worry about them winning their own games and not worry about Liverpool

  • AL @ Gmeister - 2010-04-28 15:44

    You were dude, you were!! Stop living 20yrs ago.

  • Never Walk Alone - 2010-04-28 16:56

    Fu%# all this bs - LFC are in the shite this year - with bad debt - bad owners - some bad players - and a bad manager ! We aint gonna get 4th spot - so those Liverpool supporters who think we will make it are walking around with their head up their asses ! We are a shadow of the team we were last year - and 2009 was the best chance we had in 20 years of winning trhe EPL - however unfortunately we have got a doos as coach/manager who DOES NOT know how to play positive winning attacking football - hence the position we find ourselves in. Lets accept that we need to find new blood and rebuild for the future ! In the meantime - WTF lay down to Chelsea and let them win the league - and let MU battle it out again to try and eclipse our record ! Why the f%$#k should we help them do it - they have been mouthing off all season of how good they are - so let them get on with it on their own !! However if we do beat Chelsea and MU per chance win the EPL - imagine the mileage LFC can get out of reminding Fergie that we won the title for him - which he was unable to do fair and square !!! What a twist in the tail - as that will really piss the MU supporters off ! Liverpool is like a bad disease for MU - they just cant seem to get rid of us !!

  • LFC FOR LIFE - 2010-04-29 09:49

    here's my fairytale end to the EPL an Europe. 2night Liverpool will electrify Anfield with yet another come from behind victory and book a place in the final(and we all know what happens there rite)! come sunday, Liverpool WILL defeat Chelsea and UTD will draw, making the final game of the season the decider of who will be champions!! while all this is happening Spurs,City,Villa will drop points and wonder what the F(^*(k happen to their chance finnishing 4th. Liverpool win their next 2 games and finnish 4th, than go onto lift their 4th European Cup(UEFA) more than any other team!! oh and chelsea win the EPL on goal diff. YNWA!!

  • craze love - 2010-04-29 10:05

    worried about the team`s performance

  • Drink a drink for Eric the King - 2010-04-29 10:27

    The ultimate result would be Liverpool drawing with Chelsea, opening the door for United to win the league and Liverpool not finishing 4th!!! Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, Put the Scousers at the top, Put Citeh in the middle, And burn the f&@*ing lot! We all 8 Scousers!

  • AJ - 2010-04-29 11:51

    Heres my dream end to the soccer season. Liverpool to lose by 2 clear goals tonight. Spurs to draw against Bolton on Sat; Man City and Villa to also draw on Sat; Liverpool will go into the game against Chelsea believing that they will get to 4th on the log if they beat Chelsea and actually beat Chelsea with such motivation. Man Utd to beat Sunderland as well on Sun. Then on Wednesday (5th May) Spurs thrash Man City and then thrash Burnley in their last game and cement 4th spot in the process! Man Utd to thrash Stoke in their last game and retain the EPL title. And Liverpool will be staring at another season in the Europa league! PERFECT ENDING!!!! As for Chelsea... :(

  • Fat chance - 2010-04-29 13:55

    Liverpool will never do us that favour, they're a bunch of idiots, especially Mr who says that Liverpool will win the season for us(retard of note). I asked six different Liverpool fans whether they'd prefer losing or letting United get no nineteen...needless to say, every one of those eggs chose the former... Guess what guys, I hope ur'll beat A Madrid, maybe then ur'll can savour the fact that ur'll are a bunch of has-beens when ur'll win a second rate trophy. Only Torres and Gerrard make ur'll look good... I don't think it's Rafa, i think God just doesn't like u sorry *&^%...

  • TRUE Red - 2010-04-29 13:59

    The most important game for us is tonight's game - IF we manage to come from behind & win again, the spirit will be there. Then, IF results work in our favor Saturday (Villa, City & Spurs), you can bet we will go all out against the Blues - not to hand our enemies one over us, literally, but to get 4th & back into the CL. BTW, @ "up da fools", we have won 4 straight titles in the past - just no team has won 4 straight "premier league" titles yet. Ofcourse, Sunderland could draw with Utd, but you can bet old Steve Bruce will hand over the 3 points to his old, and current, boss, i.e. Fergie

  • Hopkins - 2010-04-30 09:12

    It will be a uphill battle in a match we have to win at all costs. Chelsea all the way.

  • Georgie Best - 2010-04-30 12:04

    If Liverpool don't beat Chelsea, and Everton win their remaining 2 games, Liverpool won't even qualify for the Europa League. The 7th placed team now qualifies because Portsmouth are refused qualification, because they are in administration. So, throwing the game away will be a stupid thing to do, and financially they can't afford not to be in European football.

  • peter - 2010-04-30 12:18

    I am and always will be a "REDS". But what we really need is a decent coach and some home grown talent. None of this european and south american pansies who fall over their own feet,or go down at the softest challenge- no we need a few Roy Keanes and Wayne Rooneys and then maybe not only will LFC win the league the players might do some good to bolster the ailing English team too.I am all for getting the foregners out no more big pay checks for consistently poor performences

  • Never Walk Alone - 2010-04-30 15:37

    @Peter - WELL SAID MATE - I SALUTE YOUR HONESTY !! LFC need some serious mongrel talent ! Remember what a great team we were in the 90's with the likes of Barnes, Rush, Dalglish etc - take no prisoner players - and they gave it their all in the red shirt !! Italian and S. American players are fakers and pretty boys - and I have seen VERY FEW over the years really make it in the English game. The reason why MU perform consistantly is that Fergie bolsters his team with hard grafting english/irish/welsh/scottish players - and the namby pamby's dont cut it at United !! The same goes for European born coaches (The special one being the exception) If this was a perfect world - and I had a magic wand - I would get rid of Benitez and most of Liverpools present crop of players - and the ones too keep and build a team around would be Torres, Gerrard, Agger and Benayoun - the rest as far as I am concerned are crap !

  • STRIKE - 2010-05-01 19:05

    Well i was always under the impression that EVERY team plays to win, so if Liverpool or Chelsea wins tomorrow it would be good for themselves in various ways. Liverpool would just be doing us a favour by winning "for themselves". I don't know whether the gratification of winning for the 19th (if Liverpool wins) time will be worth the p%@#y foot comments that we would hear for eternity from Liverpool supporters. I personally don't think Liverpool can do it for themselves, let alone for United. GGMU

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