Reds boss Benitez suffers in silence after loss
Seething Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez swept out of Old Trafford desperately trying to keep a lid on his emotions after Rio Ferdinand's injury-time header gave Manchester United a dramatic Premiership win.
In a frantic end to an otherwise disappointing contest, Benitez was first upset that Wayne Rooney's lunge on Florent Sinama-Pongolle brought nothing only a yellow card, then that referee Mike Riley awarded the fateful free-kick for a foul on Patrice Evra.
Ryan Giggs instantly stepped up to sweep the set piece into the box, where Ferdinand rose to bullet a header past Jose Reina and end Liverpool's 12-match unbeaten run.
'I do not want to talk about the decisions of the referee,' said Benitez.
'Sometimes I do not understand, so I prefer not to talk about it. We have lost a game we were controlling in the last minute, to a free-kick. That is not normal but we can't change it now.'
TV replays showed Rooney took the ball and Evra was fouled, although Ferguson could understand the frustration of his opposite number.
'You are not going to be happy if you lose to a goal in the last minute,' said Ferguson. 'It is difficult to take and difficult to get out of your mind.'
Benitez's other reflections on a defeat which his side did not deserve - even if they did not do enough to win either - were more plausibly centred around Djibril Cisse's astonishing miss.
Man-of-the-match Ferdinand had already cleared off the line when Harry Kewell drove the rebound towards goal. Edwin van der Sar made a superb save but only palmed the ball straight into Cisse's path.
Six yards out and totally unmarked, the Frenchman seemed certain to score. Instead, he inexplicably blazed over the best chance of a game which produced precious few opportunities.
'Djibril was in front of goal, with no-one else there,' said Benitez. 'I think he was surprised the ball came to him.'
Although the latest spat between the north-west giants is little more than a footnote in the chase for second spot behind Chelsea, victory was enough to illicit a fierce reaction from Gary Neville.
The United skipper, abused by the Liverpool fans at various stages during the game, raced 60 yards to celebrate the success in front of the visiting support.
But, while the incident may be assessed by Football Association officials, Neville's brother Phil, who was working for Sky TV, said it should quickly be consigned to the history books.
'My brother always celebrates like that when we beat Liverpool,' said Neville.
'It means a lot to him and I think people should just let it go.'
Ferdinand's goal not only staved off successive goalless draws between the sides in single season for the first time in 76 years, it also cut Chelsea's lead at the top to 14 points.
Of more relevance, it widened United's gap over their most obvious rivals for the second automatic Champions League spot to four points, although Liverpool do have two games in hand.
Having taken 140 games to score his first Red Devils goal, Ferdinand now has three goals in five home games, a welcome improvement in his strike rate and long overdue as far as Ferguson is concerned.
'There is no reason why he can't do that more often,' said the United boss, who confirmed John O'Shea will have X-rays on a rib injury tomorrow.
'Hopefully this little run gives him the confidence and encouragement to attack the ball in the penalty area.
'He has a marvellous leap and is a great header of the ball. He is 6ft 4in, has a big head and great spring, so there is no reason why he shouldn't get more goals.'