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Posted by Robin Hackett on 09/18/2010

While Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested Rafael Benitez is to blame for the decline at Liverpool, David Lacey, writing in The Guardian, argues that Ferguson needs a new crop of talent to stave off United's own decline.

For Liverpool, this may be the season that will decide whether they are going to regain their status as one of Europe's leading teams or are about to become another Everton, drifting around in mid-table hoping that one of the elite has a sufficiently lean year to allow them a place in the top four and the chance to revive happier memories.

Manchester United have hardly reached that stage but with two of their best players, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, now the wrong side of 35 while their first-choice goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, will be 40 next month, it is going to take a mighty effort to turn the team around while keeping up appearances in the Premier and Champions Leagues. Already the question nobody dares ask must be preying on more than a few minds: what happens when Ferguson decides to retire – and means it.

It is hard to imagine there ever coming a time when the younger part of United's support, those 25 and under say, will have no clear first-hand memories of their team winning the league. Much the same would have been said of Liverpool's fans in the 70s and 80s, yet this is the case now.

Meanwhile, former Arsenal striker Alan Smith turns his focus to Sunday's derby in the Telegraph, saying Nemanja Vidic must prove he can cope with Fernando Torres.

Vidic and Rio Ferdinand must show all their experience by shrewdly choosing when to get tight on Torres and when to drop off, when to defend a high line, as they normally do, and when to withdraw.

After all, the last thing they want is to 'get done' by the kind of simple, long ball that Torres gobbled up in March of last year to trigger Liverpool's ground-breaking 4-1 victory.

In this instance, then, the old coaching adage remains true: if there is pressure on the ball you can afford to squeeze up, knowing that the opponent in possession doesn't have time to pick out a pass. If there isn't pressure, drop off a few yards to allow some breathing space.

In addition, those central defenders must be equally on their guard when their own players have the ball, which is likely to be for the majority of the time. That involves keeping close tabs on Torres, watching where he wanders when play is up the other end.


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