Rodgers has bought expensively but poorly for Liverpool
MAN UNITED 3 (Daley Blind 49, Ander Herrera 70, Anthony Martial 86)
LIVERPOOL 1 (Christian Benteke 84)
Brendan Rodgers is clutching at straws.
His support base erodes by the week and, after Liverpool's insipid display in a 3-1 loss to Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time), it has reached its nadir.
When invention and flair were desperately needed at Old Trafford, his first instinct was to take off a man he specifically bought to solve Liverpool's creative woes.
It said a lot that attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino was the one to make way.
All game, dumped on the right of a three-man Liverpool attack, the 23-year-old Brazilian bore the look of a toddler lost in a shopping mall.
The pre-season capture did little to justify a £29-million ($63.2m) price tag, that's for sure.
But that's somewhat small change, considering the fortune Rodgers has shelled out in the Anfield hot seat.
His quest to return Liverpool to the top four has cost the club close to £300m ($650m) over three seasons.
And the Reds still look nowhere near to being the finished article.
What looks finished, however, is the Northern Irishman's acumen in the transfer market, and probably his Anfield future.
Unlike Chelsea, Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool's American owners emphasise on youth and potential in their transfer policy.
Rodgers is on the same page as his employers but his biggest failing is his inability to spot the promise.
The jury's still out on Firmino, who usually adopts a more central position on the pitch.
But he would do well to heed the cautionary tales of those who arrived in Merseyside before him.
For every Philippe Coutinho, there are a dozen Iago Aspas.
Fans were delighted to see the backs of Mario Balotelli (on loan at AC Milan) and Fabio Borini who, for a combined fee of £26.4m, gave the club nothing but despair. In the stands, the patience with former Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana (£25m) is wearing thin.
Centre back Dejan Lovren (£20m) will find himself lucky to see his name still on the first 11 after this appalling outing.
Exasperatingly, there seems to be no consistency or logic to Rodgers' methods. If loyalty is a manager's way of getting his troubled charges to up their game, there is simply no way of telling in his case.
Young Alberto Moreno, 23, deemed an investment worth paying £12m for a year ago, has made way for an even younger and unproven Joe Gomez, 18.
Lovren is allowed to continue to make a mess of things, while Mamadou Sakho, the £15m defender who impressed last term after a difficult first campaign, sits on the bench.
Likewise, Lazar Markovic, whom Rodgers convinced the club to fork out £20m for, only to be regularly played out of position, has been shipped out to Fenerbahce on loan.
And the glaring weaknesses that run through the team continue to be left untouched, even when the financial support was readily available.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet hardly inspires confidence at the back.
Martin Skrtel appears in need of a new challenge elsewhere, and one suspects he will come to the same conclusion himself anyway, after an extended partnership with Lovren in the heart of defence.
With a foundation as brittle as this, where exactly does Rodgers hope he can go with this team? At the moment, absolutely nowhere.
The fans will be hoping that Rodgers, like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, ditches the go-youth policy and go for proven talent.
But it is unlikely that the Mesut Oezils and Kevin de Bruynes in the football world would choose Anfield over London and Manchester, certainly not with the Reds nowhere close to Champions League calibre and Rodgers in charge.
RODGERS' MAJOR SIGNINGS
Fabio Borini £10.4m
Alberto Moreno £12m
Daniel Sturridge £12m
Nathaniel Clyne £12.5m
Joe Allen £15m
Mamadou Sakho £15m
Mario Balotelli £16m
Lazar Markovic £20m
Dejan Lovren £20m
Adam Lallana £25m
Roberto Firmino £29m
Christian Benteke £32.5m
LACK OF LEADERSHIP
"There was no width, they didn't create too many chances, and everyone was giving the ball away. But the biggest thing for me was that they looked characterless. They are leaderless. Jordan Henderson is back soon but there is nobody like Jamie Carragher, no Steven Gerrard. The players are all looking out for themselves."
- Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson
PLAYERS IN WRONG POSITIONS
"You've got square pegs in round holes and it just doesn't work. You have to make people feel they are playing in positions they are happy to play in and Liverpool haven't got that right now."
- Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness tells Rodgers to play players in their usual positions
DROP 4-3-3, GO WITH TWO STRIKERS
"I don't understand this obsession with playing 4-3-3. The great season they had was with two strikers... now they've got a lot of strikers, no wide players, and he continues to play 4-3-3."
- Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher
BY THE NUMBERS
3 Manchester United had only three shots on target, and they scored from all three in the win over Liverpool.
Rodgers bemoans lack of creativity
- Christian Benteke. PHOTO: REUTERS
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that he will have to find a solution to his team's scoring woes after they were outplayed in a 3-1 defeat by bitter rivals Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Liverpool have found the net just three times in their opening five Premier League games and were largely toothless at Old Trafford.
Rodgers' side struggled to create chances against a resolute United defence and lacked midfield creativity or forward movement.
A stunning late overhead kick from Christian Benteke, which ensured Liverpool did not fail to score for a third straight game, was the only bright spot for the visitors from an attacking perspective.
Reds manager Rodgers felt his side were overly keen to get the ball forward to the Belgium target-man and were guilty of being too direct.
"Over the first five games, creating goals is something we need to look at," Rodgers told Sky Sports.
"It is too easy sometimes for us to go direct to Christian Benteke who was excellent today.
"We need to be a lot technically better than we showed today."
Rodgers also questioned the decision to award United the free-kick that led to Danny Blind's opening goal.
"I thought first half we defended well but nowhere near enough quality and composure on the ball," he said.
"But defensively, we weren't bothered too much - any time we were frightened was by our own mistakes.
"We're disappointed with a couple of the goals. I didn't think it was a free-kick - I thought Ashley Young bought the challenge.
"Nathaniel Clyne defended brilliantly all day and he's just matched his run. You can see both of them challenging for the ball with their arms and Ashley Young actually jumps on his back.
"So they get a free-kick against us, and they work it quite well when they get the goal. But I didn't think it was a free-kick."
Liverpool have now lost back-to-back games, after a 3-0 home defeat by West Ham United before the international break, and have won only one of their last eight away games in the league.
It is a run that will concern Rodgers, who came in for heavy criticism from sections of the fanbase after a woeful finish to last season.
"You are never happy when you lose a game, especially to your rival," he added.
"The only positive for me is that we had a defeat here last year and we got better.
"The key for us is to initiate a game and create chances, that is something we need to be better at."
It was always going to be a tough start to the campaign for Liverpool, who must face all of last season's top five away from home before the end of November.
With seven points from their first five games, they are already eight adrift of leaders Manchester City. - Wire Services.