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Rafael Benitez believes he has a stronger squad than last season, but says it is time that the players started to show it.

The Liverpool manager saw his team succumb to a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, a defeat which leaves them 11 points behind the Premiership leaders.

“I believe – I know – we are a better squad than last season,” said Benitez. “But we have to prove that.

“The way to change things in your life is to work harder and better. We must think about Reading in the Carling Cup and then (Aston) Villa. If I think every day, all week, about what went wrong, what half chances we missed we would not change anything.

“We must focus on improving, getting better at what we do – and the things we are not doing well.

“Last season, we were much better away from home, and we have a situation now when we are looking at the same defenders and the same midfielders who were in that position last season.

“The difference is scoring first – everything changes in a game when that happens.”

And Benitez responded to the suggestion that Steven Gerrad should be played in his favoured central midfield role.

He said: “Stevie has played in the middle sometimes, but if you have Momo (Sissoko) and Xabi (Alonso) doing well in the middle and Stevie scoring goals like he did last season, then you will do well.

“The team was the one we needed because we had enough quality to win the match. I don’t think there was a lack of confidence – the first half hour we were fine.

“This is still a very, very long race. I cannot say whether we can make up 11 points, yes or no. But we can only look to the next one and to make sure we improve and get the points that will make the situation easier to manage.”

Benitez admitted the defeat at Old Trafford was one of his most frustrating as Liverpool manager.

He said: “It is clearly one of my most disappointing days as manager of the club.
‘It is a game I know everybody at the club and the supporters wants us to win, particularly at Old Trafford.

“I felt we started the game well but we didn’t create enough. We had some chances and good possession, but we could not create clear openings. Things were okay until we conceded the first goal.

“That changed the game for both sides. We needed to go forward, the game was more open and, with their quality, it became more difficult for us.”

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