That was...infuriating. Rafa clearly had the game plan to beat Man Utd today. The team had been well briefed and everyone did what was asked of them, from a tactical perspective. However, Rafa's penchant for buying" seven out ten" players - players who will consistently perform to decent standard, but who will never really shine - came back to bite him.
Even though we enjoyed the majority of the possession, shots on goal and the best chances, none of our players could inject that spark that a team needs to beat any of the top teams in this league. On the right wing especially, Benayoun couldn't beat Evra and get in any decent crosses, preferring instead to continuously cut in onto his (weaker) left foot. This was exacerbated by Harry Kewell on the left wing who apparently forgot two of his main qualities - flair and pace and declined to even take on Wes Brown down the byline.
In midfield, while he played well, Mascherano was outgunned by Hargreaves and Anderson which robbed Gerrard of his creative freedom.
Obviously the losing side will always rue any missed chances but to have two efforts cleared off the line as well as a number of clear cut chances - Torres's shot come cross was inches away from being converted by, I think, Benayoun - and some half-shouts for penalties (Tevez's double "ball to hand" moment springs to mind) beaten by pretty much Man Utd's only chance before we started to chase the game, is infuriating.
Where Man Utd won the game, and fair play to them, was in their technique, self-belief and, clearly, luck. Utd players always seemed first to the ball when it counted and while no one will say the game was easy for them, seemed to play within themselves once they went ahead. After that, Liverpool players started to look more frantic and, as a collective unit, our first touch went completely - making it far easier for our opponents.
However, the important thing is to learn from our mistakes. If Gillette and Hicks can see that Rafa has the tactics to win the league, and entertain the fans, hopefully they'll open their wallets and allow him to buy the players that can take Liverpool from a 7/10 team to an 8 or 9/10 team. Players like Benayoun, Kuyt and Riise (and, sadly Hyypia) who are enjoying first team football can be replaced with players of the calibre suited to a championship winning side. If that happens, today would not have been a wasted loss.