Rafa Benitez explains why he dropped Salomon Rondon at Liverpool and his hopes for Sean Longstaff
Premier League leaders Liverpool convincingly beat Benitez’s side 4-0 yesterday.
Benitez, without Asian Cup-bound Ki Sung-yueng, made six changes for the game.
United’s manager rested Salomon Rondon ahead of Saturday’s game against Watford at Vicarage Road. Joselu started up front for 15th-placed Newcastle at Anfield, where Yoshinori Muto and Isaac Hayden were also handed rare starts.
Asked if he had been preserving his players for the Watford fixture, Benitez said: “No. It’s what we have to do.
“When you have a few games in a few days, you need fresh legs, and you in these kind of games you have to play with intensity, too.
“It’s impossible without changing. You can analyse things after, but at half-time it was right. It’s just the difference between teams, and the way things were going on with the second goal changed everything.”
Benitez handed Sean Longstaff his Premier League debut in the second half.
The 21-year-old midfielder, likely to start next month’s FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers, replaced Kenedy.
“I think it will be good and bad memories for him,” said Benitez. “Obviously, his debut at Anfield and with a great atmosphere, but bad memories because obviously we lost the game.
“But he did well, he even could have scored a goal, and that was positive in terms of a young lad coming here and not being scared of trying to do something.
“Hopefully, he can be an important player for us in the future.”
Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said his side have laid the foundations for a title charge after they extended their lead at the top of the table to six points, with Manchester City losing 2-1 at Leicester.
“What we wanted to do all the time was create a basis for the rest of the season, said Klopp.
“Now the first part of the season is over. We want to create our own history. It’s the first Liverpool team in the Premier League unbeaten (at halfway). We have conceded seven goals.
“All good numbers, but there are 19 games to go. So we play Arsenal, we play City, we play Tottenham.
“We play all of them again. There is a long way to go, we all know that.
“We have to win our games we have to be focused, we have to be really in the mood and have tunnel vision and see where it leads us to.”