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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 00:16 GMT
Houllier hits out at Blades
Houllier was angered by challenge on Kirkland
Houllier was angered by challenge on Kirkland

Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier launched a thinly-veiled attack on Sheffield United's tactics after his side slumped to defeat in the Worthington Cup semi-final.

Sheffield United's Michael Tonge - a transfer target for Liverpool - scored twice late on after youngster Neil Mellor had given the Merseysiders a first-half lead at Bramall Lane.

But Houllier was furious at the Blades' physical approach, particularly a second-half challenge by Michael Brown that left Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland needing treatment for a knee injury.

Blades boss Warnock hit back with a sarcastic response, pointing the finger at Liverpool rather than his own team.

Houllier said after the 2-1 defeat: "I am very disappointed because there were a few things I did not like about the game.

"We were expecting a physical challenge, but it was more than that at times.

"I don't want to comment on the incident involving Chris, but I'm pleased he did not have his leg broken.

"If he had not lifted his leg up he could have had his leg broken.

"We should have got a second goal, but they came back into the game. But we're only at half-time, there's still 90 minutes to go."

Warnock gave a sarcastic reply when asked if he agreed with Houllier's assessment of the game as being over-physical.

He said: "I would agree. I thought Liverpool were a little over-physical if I'm honest.

"I thought they could have had a couple more bookings, but I understand that because they are fighting for their lives."

Warnock was delighted with Tonge - and admitted he could playing for Liverpool rather than against them next season if United are not promoted.

Tonge turns away after his winner
Tonge turns away after his winner

Tonge is currently rated at 5m and is understood to have attracted considerable interest from Liverpool, although United's cup run has ensured there will be no sales while the transfer window is currently open.

Warnock, however, is resigned to losing Tonge, as he added: "Nobody wants to buy him now, but then they couldn't afford him at the minute.

"They can have him at the end of the season and Liverpool would be a fantastic club to go to.

"I know that and Michael knows that, and I think he would love to go there, but there's plenty of time for that yet.

"I know I will lose him one day, unless we go up this season and then we'll never lose him in a million years, not while I am here."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier
"I was not happy about a lot of things out there"
 Sheff Utd full-back Wayne Quinn
"We've a great chance in the second leg"
 Sheff Utd assistant boss Kevin Blackwell
"We did Yorkshire proud"

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