In Rafa we trusted. We knew what to expect from Liverpool under Benitez - not a lot. The "Miracle in Istanbul" aside, he promised much and delivered very little.
But after treading water for a while with the Spaniard, there's now a splinter of optimism at Anfield. A new, unpredictable future is slowly unfolding under new manager Roy Hodgson.
The former Fulham boss has had to take Liverpool back to the drawing board, resulting in a tepid start to the domestic campaign. Hodgson has already admitted there are plenty of issues to be resolved with "a cloud hanging over Anfield." Steven Gerrard smiles in England white while frowning in Merseyside red at the moment. Fernando Torres seems to have lost all his belief and a lot of his ability with one hair-cut and Javier Mascherano's petulance broke new limits in the summer as the Argentinian effectively went on strike. His summer departure did disappoint me purely because of the hilarity he provides in matches with his post-tackle tantrums and the inevitable red/yellow cards that he invites.
Replacing the belligerent Mascherano with the exciting Raul Meireles for a tidy profit is one of a few shrewd moves by Hodgson in the transfer market; another was effectively swopping Yossi Benayoun for Joe Cole and gaining five million pounds in the process. He also stopped the Spanish Armada - Torres and Pepe Reina - from abandoning what looked like a sinking ship.
Cole, Meireles, Torres and Reina should all play on Sunday but one person we won't see of course will be United's Antonio Valencia. I'm devastated for him after his sickening injury. Tigerish and talented on the pitch, he’s timid off it – a person of genuine humility who’s always willing to chat and happy to help. We will miss him greatly this term. Get well soon Toni.