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Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Sunday, 25 October 2009

Benitez job safe says Reds chief

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez
The Liverpool manager seems to have got the thumbs up - for now

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has been handed long-term job assurances by the club's managing director ahead of Sunday's game with Manchester United.

Pressure has been mounting on the Spaniard following a miserable run of four successive defeats.

But Christian Purslow told Sportsweek: "Liverpool are on a long-term journey and you do not do that by worrying about short term results.

"Rafa Benitez is absolutely central to that long-term plan."

Despite an impressive start to the season, the Reds have plummeted to eighth in the Premier League and are wobbling in the Champions League, with some reports suggesting Benitez could be sacked if they lost Sunday's match with United.

However, Purslow, appointed in the summer, believes the club will turn things around and guaranteed that Benitez would still be in charge at the end of the season, regardless of trophies won.

"The core of the team that won 86 points last season remains intact with some excellent additions and so I've got every reason to believe we can perform at that level over the season," he added.

"The most important aspect of the club I was involved in in my first week in the job was securing Rafa for another five years.

"You only have to look at the Premiership era and our two major competitors in the last 10 to 12 years to see the benefits of longevity."

He also said that Spanish striker Fernando Torres and Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano were happy at Anfield, despite suggestions the pair were keen on leaving.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

Benitez's side are seven points behind United and with four straight defeats in all competitions, including two in the league, Liverpool are enduring their worst run of results in 22 years.

The Anfield club have not lost five in a row for 56 years and their hopes of winning a first league title since 1990 appear to be receding.

However United manager Sir Alex Ferguson refused to be drawn on Benitez's future.

"I'm not going into that at all. I'm not interested in Liverpool. I'm only concerned about what we do on Sunday. We are consistent and that is important," he added.

United's Michael Owen, meanwhile, has received backing from Ferguson as the striker prepares to return to his former club after quitting Anfield in 2004 for Real Madrid.

Ferguson snapped up Owen on a free transfer from Newcastle in July and said ahead of the Liverpool visit: "It will be interesting to see what reaction Michael gets, but he's got the experience to handle it.

Man Utd striker Michael Owen
Owen scored 118 goals in 216 appearances for Liverpool

"There are very few players who have played for both clubs. Paul Ince obviously got a bad reaction from our fans when he went to Liverpool, and Michael might get that on Sunday.

"The goals he scored for Liverpool mark him down as one of their best-ever strikers. That stands him in good stead in terms of the Liverpool fans."

Ferguson hopes there is a possibility that England striker Wayne Rooney could still be fit.

The 24-year-old has scored six goals in 10 games this season but has not played since England's defeat by Ukraine on 10 October.

"He is always desperate to play," said Ferguson. "That is the nature of the boy, you won't stop that.

"It is important how he does in training. If he does train we will have a better idea."

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