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Rafa’s Cracking Up…

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The title race looked like it was over by Christmas with Newcastle steaming away in the first half of the season. King Kevin Keegan was taking the Geordies to new heights and it seemed unimaginable that any club, even Manchester United, would claw pack the points they were lacking.

However, as Newcastle started to drop points, United couldn’t help themselves in picking them up. Following our 4-1 battering at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day, something must have clicked for our lads.

In the remaining 16 games of the season, Eric Cantona, who had returned to this team of apparent kids a couple of months earlier, who supposedly wouldn’t win anything, scored 10 goals, with United winning 13 matches. Within these games was the 1-0 at St. James Park, adding to the string of defeats Newcastle suffered within the same time period, winning just 8 of their last 16.

With three games to go, United played a fierce Leeds team, who even with 10 men were incredibly difficult for us to beat. Sir Alex Ferguson later mentioned, ‘in passing’, that Newcastle would not have to struggle so much to pick up three points against Leeds, our Yorkshire rivals wouldn’t fight half as hard to stop Newcastle from winning.

After beating Leeds the following week, Keegan used an interview with Sky Sports as a way of venting the frustration he’d been building up. How dare Ferguson try and imply Newcastle’s route to the title would be easier than United’s! That rant is famed for the moment Newcastle’s title hopes went up in smoke.

Newcastle drew their remaining two games of the season whilst United won both theirs, 5-0 and 3-0. We wanted that title and we had the nerve to go out there and win it.

Some say we’ve seen a similar melt down in Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez, whose team has lead the table all season. Are they right?

Benitez doesn’t lack the emotional maturity that Keegan does. He’s the kind of manager who remains calm in the dugout when his team scores a goal. He’s the kind of manager who doesn’t usually get involved with bitching in the press. He would never erupt like Keegan did as it’s not within his grasp to experience such a range of emotions, at least, he’s never shown it to be.

When he laid in to Ferguson and Manchester United for a good few minutes my initial reaction, before reading any write-ups in the press or hearing any ‘professional’ opinion, was how odd it was. What an odd thing to do. Initially, it wasn’t funny like it was on first viewing the Keegan rant, just really strange. Why is he sat there reading from a piece of paper, in the press conference for his team’s game against Stoke, about everything ‘Mr. Ferguson’ has supposedly done?

This wasn’t some off the cuff moment of frustration, rather a planned exercise. He went to that press conference prepared. He would talk about the Stoke game, then he would talk about ‘Mr. Ferguson’. Weird.

Clearly, whoever he had practiced his speech with had emphasised the need for Benitez to refer to all he said as ‘fact’. If Benitez was talking facts, then what complaint can there be?

“I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start,” started Benitez. “But I have seen some facts. On 1 November, they played Hull and Mr Ferguson had a two-match touchline ban and a £10,000 fine after confronting Mike Dean, the referee, for improper conduct.”

Correct. That is fact. With 20 minutes to play against Hull, Michael Carrick was brought down nastily on the edge of the area by Turner, a player who was already on a yellow card. The incident happened in full view of the referee who awarded a free-kick, no second yellow.

Sky Sports: Turner, who was booked in the first half is lucky to escape a red card as he brings down Carrick on the edge of the area.

Ten minutes later, the referee awarded Hull a penalty. At the final whistle, Ferguson went over to Mike Dean, the referee, and confronted him. Gary Neville pulled him away as Ferguson stood pointing a finger in Dean’s face, shouting.

Fair do’s, that’s a punishable offence and Ferguson was duly punished by the FA, in the way that Benitez mentioned, a fine and a two-match ban.

“He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished.”

Wait a minute. Rafa said we were talking facts. The first fact was Ferguson was punished by the FA. The second fact was Ferguson is the only manager who can’t be punished by the FA. He’s a moron or he’s cracked up.

“Then he was talking about the fixtures. Two years ago we were playing a lot of early kick-offs away on Saturdays when United were playing on Sundays. And we didn’t say anything.”

Two years ago, Liverpool played five early kick-offs on Saturday away from home (as did United). Sheffield United (August 19th), Everton (September 9th), Bolton (September 30th), Charlton (December 16th) and Watford (January 13th).

United played August 20th at 1.30pm then had another game three days later. Liverpool’s next game after the 19th was also three days later. United played Spurs on Saturday September 9th, not a Sunday. United played Newcastle on Sunday October 1st, which was followed by an International break meaning it had no real effect on the league. United played West Ham on Sunday December 17th. United played Villa on Saturday January 13th, not a Sunday.

So in fact, United played on a Sunday on three occasions when Liverpool had early kick offs and only one occasion did it have any bearing on the league.

He’s a moron or he’s cracked up.

“At Christmas, United played on the 29th and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away against Newcastle two days after playing Bolton. They were playing about 40 hours later, they were not complaining then.” Obviously not. Why would we complain about having one more day off? Just over a minute later, he babbled the same point again. “They cannot complain about the fixtures after they were playing on December 29 while the rest played on the 28th.”

The media didn’t make a fuss of United winning the FIFA World Club Cup which is maybe why Benitez forgot about our trip to Japan. Between the first game in December and the 29th of the same month, Liverpool played six games. In that same time period, United played seven games, and travelled to and from Japan. Of course, it was our choice to play in this competition, just as Liverpool chose to when they won the European Cup. However, with massive travelling time and another 90 minutes of football under our belts, I’m not sure how Benitez can believe his players were further disadvantaged by United having any extra day to play, in order for Setanta to show the game.

“You can see every single week how they put (referees) under pressure, we know this. We have seen it before. We have seen players sent off at Old Trafford and we do not see our opponents sent off. It is part of the game. But to complain and to always have an advantage is not fair.”

Of course, Liverpool never put the referees under any pressure to send any players off. Unless we recall last season when Steven Gerrard kicked his leg out in an attempt to win a penalty (as Ronaldo does and gets called a diver for doing so) whilst running side by side with Everton defender Hibbert. Mark Clattenburg clearly had a yellow card in his hand, ready to book Hibbert. Then Liverpool captain ran over and had a go at the ref, causing Clatternburg to change his mind and send the Evertonian off. If United do it, it’s not fair, according to Mr. Benitez, but should we just sweep it under the carpet when his own team are guilty of the exact same thing?

Had Benitez been talking facts, and I mean real facts, (like Premiership players Rio Ferdinand and Christian Negouai both missed a drugs test in the same year. One was banned for 8 months by the FA and forced to pay a £50,000 fine, whilst the other faced no ban and was fined £2,000. Like Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes missing three Premiership matches after being sent off in the pre-season Amsterdam Tournament, yet when Steven Gerrard and Neil Mellor were sent off in the same tournament received no punishment from the FA) then there would be some sympathies for his cause. It would still be a strange thing to do, reading off a list of criticisms from a piece of paper about another manager, but there’d be some reasoning. However, as shown above, plenty of the items Benitez wanted to show as ‘facts’ were nothing of the sort!

Regardless, it should have ended there. If Benitez isn’t rattled by Ferguson then there would be no need to continue. He’s said his piece, end of story.

However, following Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Stoke, which would allow United to go top if they won both their games in hand, Benitez is at again.

“I don’t regret saying it and I don’t think it had any effect on the players,” he said. “I can guarantee that a lot of people have sent a lot of messages, not to me but to our staff, and a lot of people in Liverpool think that at least one person has said something that everybody wanted to say. I’m not thinking about what people will think, I was thinking about my club. It was because of all of Mr Ferguson’s comments this season about Liverpool so we don’t understand why. I think he is nervous, clearly.”

What exactly did Ferguson say to spark the flames here? What did Ferguson say that riled Benitez enough to compile a list of ‘wrong-doings’ to throw in our manager’s face?

Ferguson said, quite sensibly, that the Liverpool players would begin to get nervous in the second half of the season, given that they are totally inexperienced when it comes to winning the Premiership.

Benitez takes care to mention that loads of people have supported him, but where are they? I’ve read comments from Ian Rush, Graham Poll and Andy Townsend which support what Benitez has said. Erm, but what about the people whose opinion actually matters? I, for one, couldn’t care less about what they had to say, on anything, so where are the well-respected people who agree with Rafa? Either they don’t exist or they’re not mad enough to go on and on to the press about it.

Ferguson dealt with Benitez, dismissing his comments like water off a duck’s back, calling the Spaniard ‘disturbed’, ‘angry’ and ‘ridiculous’.

So, two days, two sets of comments in United’s direction, surely he’s finished now? Sadly, no. His next target was David Gill.

Again, United dealt with the situation with a total air of calm.

“With respect to his comments on my position they are totally inaccurate,” said Gill. “The reality of it is that on the FA board sit three representatives of the Premier League in Premier League chairman Dave Richards, Bolton chairman Phil Gartside and myself. They are elected every year by every club in the Premier League and when we are on the board we are there representing the Premier League and I am not there representing Manchester United. The reality is that when you look at the decisions and issues I think anyone would understand that we don’t get special treatment because of that. Therefore I was surprised by Benitez’s comments and I think they are totally inaccurate.”

To quote the tacky terrace jeer… “Eeeeeeaseh! Eeeeeeeaseh!”

Now, whether Benitez’s comments had any negative effect on his team last weekend matters little. If United go on to lift the trophy in May, the press will focus on this weekend. Rafa has a pop at Fergie, Rafa’s team drop points to Stoke, Fergie’s team thrash Chelsea 3-0. It will be looked upon as the defining moment in Liverpool’s season.

Like Benitez’s complaint about Didier Drogba backfired massively, we could be seeing a same story unfold in regards to his attempt to take on Ferguson. His comments haven’t taken the pressure off his team, as those players all know that if they don’t win this weekend, it will be attributed to the ‘fact’ their manager has lost the plot. There is even more pressure on them than there was before and that will only intensify if United go top this weekend and Benitez opens his trap on Ferguson, again, in the Merseyside derby press conference.

Has Rafa done a Keegan? No. Keegan had emotion and heat of the moment to blame for his public criticism of the United manager. Benitez has no excuse. He sat there compiling a list of ‘facts’ and coming across as a pseudo-intellectual when he should have been preparing for a tough away fixture. If the title doesn’t go to Liverpool for the first time since 1990, the scousers will wonder what could have been had their manager been more focussed on their fixtures than he was penalty decisions not awarded against United last season or punishments handed out to the United manager.

The trophy is staying in Manchester, football’s coming home, as we sung against Wigan on Wednesday night… “He’s cracking up, he’s cracking up, he’s cracking, Rafa’s cracking up!”

More of the same at the Manchester United blog, The Republik of Mancunia.

Comments (30)

  1. LOL

    what a load of rubbish..

    are all the bloggers all this site dedicated to posting pro-man utd propaganda?

  2. on this site*

  3. Spot on Scott. No need for me to go over any of the detail. The press have given their own verdict and it is not favourable towards Benitez.

    Now we add in his public contract negotiation, which his own camp have decided to make public (just like HE was the one to go public on the Hicks/Gillett affair) and you have to wonder about this guy.

    Benitez has ‘previous’ in terms of in-house fighting with club management. There’s clearly much more to him than he normally likes to portray. He’s devious and milking the unswerving loyalty of the Liverpool fans, which he sees as a power base.

    Worst of all, with Liverpool about to fight for their lives to stay in the PL race, we suddenly have their manager providing distraction after distraction.

    Benitez loves to wash his dirty linen in public. In the past most associated with Liverpool would have said that this is not the Liverpool way.

    But Liverpool fans have misplaced blind loyalty to Benitez and it will be their (and his) downfall.

    Liverpool never were going to win the title this year, they’re just not good enough, but at least Benitez could have mounted a more sustained challenge and claimed progress, while doing it with dignity.

    The man’ lost the plot I’m afraid!

  4. He’s only driving three wheels these days. I actually laughed at his comments when I saw the video. It was funny and inconsistent, but it did the job for Fergie.

    Coming out of the previous weekend, Benitez was made to look like a muppet, while United basked in toppling praise…

  5. More ridiculous nonsense from one of these real “fans of soccerball for over 2 years”. If you don’t know what you’re talking about you shouldn’t plagiarize stuff from the ManUre website.
    The whole game has been calling Lord Ferg a bully for the better part of 20 years. He’s a lucky blowhard who likes to insult players on other teams. The game will be better when he’s gone.

  6. Seems like everyone has had an agenda against Rafa for years now, and it’s been magnified since Mourinho left England.

    Bit unfair and inaccurate at most times really.

  7. Why is everyone so fascinated with Benitez’comments. I mean he did state the obvious and truth be told, the man was fed up with Alex Fegurson. Unlike Mourinho who is a great orator, Benitez’ less than stellar english hinders his ability to adequately convey his feelings. If Benitez conducted his press conferences in Spanish and he lashed out against Fergie in his native tongue, i’m pretty certain the media would have a different take on this issue.

    Give the man a damn break

  8. The fat waiter deserves a tip and here’s mine……gone by June!!! :)

  9. I don’t know about that, BD… Liverpool would then be able to hire a capable manager… :P

  10. This is bullshit… this site should not be biased, and this is the most biased thing I’ve read so far. Ban the author of this piece from soccerlens.

  11. The blog is just stating facts, the REAL facts, and now the scouse supporters are bleating about it being biased, I laugh in their pitiful faces. Nothing that he has said here is wrong and you know it so the only thing you pathetic losers can do is complain. I applaud the author for the work he was willing to do for this blog and suggest Liverpool start worrying about their team rather than jumping on the “United win things so they must be cheating” band wagons.

  12. Why, all you poor little Liverpool fans. Of course you’re right, this is the most shameless piece of biased journalism I ever read. How dare it present both sides of the facts and, after weighing them up, chip in with a conclusion that is unfavourable towards your darling Liverpool? Here’s a suggestion: why not you show up the big meanie and actually write an article to refute this. I’d love to see how you show us the facts that prove that Benitez is absolutely Socrates for launching on his angry tirade. :)

  13. C’mon you Loserfool fans, state a reason why you think this article is shit. Counter it. Benitez fell into the trap that is “Fergie Planet” (mindgames). These are the FACTS. Prove them wrong.

  14. There’s a few things to consider- firstly, the “mind games” thing is ridiculously over played. Fergie attempts to rile people, but when anyone reacts to the nonsense he comes out with, suddenly he’s won. Rubbish.

    On the other hand, Benitez ought not to have responded in such a manner- at the time, Liverpool were top, and he had a number of top players coming back from injury, and things were looking good. I think its only really a way that someone can afford to respond when they have gone and “done it” themselves. When Benitez wins the Premiership, OK, he can start to get on that plane. Until then, keep quiet, smile, and there’s no need to think about anything but the next game.

    http://www.addedtime.blogspot.com

  15. Good spin on the whole affair, it really is about how you interpret it.

    me personally? i am a sceptic of just how much influence (if any) these “mind games” have on the title race. I very much doubt whether season professionals like Paul scholes, Steven Gerrard, Ryan Giggs, Jamie Carragher et al go into big title run-in fixtures thinking about a few words in the papers from their manager, or the opposition manager. thats weak mentality, and whether Gerrard & Carragher have won the league or not, they are not weak mentally.

    i think the whole mind games shit gets far too much publicity. Ferguson can wind people up, it doesnt mean United win the league. they win the league if they have the best side. Keegan’s outburst had no bearing on the league that season. Newcastle could have won their last two games after that rant, and United would still have been champions….lets bury this myth that SAF is some kind of psychological genius and that Rafa has fallen into some kind of verbal man-trap…

  16. Neil Jones: yeah- totally agree

  17. /agree w/ erwf, realfan, and GT

  18. Rafa’s no fool, there is a method behind the madness. and anyone who ever wrights off Liverpool is an idiot

  19. I’ll admit I’m a ‘Pool supporter and yes i’ll also agree that Rafa’s comments were a bit crazy, actually, more then just a bit.

    But it just bugs me the fact that almost every single article that are dedicated to actual CLUBS always seem to support Man U, it just gets a bit stale.

    Just my 2 cents

  20. im fed up with all the manure supporters on this website bagging out liverpool fans every chance they get liverpool WILL win the title this year and thats all there is to it

  21. @20: Dream on! :)

    Benitez has an agenda and he’s working it hard. Today he’s accusing ‘The Club’ of failing to deal with Agger’s contract on time. For “the Club’ read Parry.

    He’s also going after Parry with his own contract issues. This has been a power play goiog on for some time but Benitez constantly chooses to use the media to push his case. Why? Because he believes that the fans will always back him up.

    He ignores the fact that all this nonsense in last couple of weeks is a major distraction to the real business at hand.

    Now he says that he is putting his own contract negotiations on hold because it is a distraction????

    He’s a devious player of politics and is keeping his options open. If he fails to deliver this season he’ll be off and he’ll blame everyone but himself.

    Benitez is slowly but surely becoming my favouite for 1st managerial departure at the end of the season. Liverpool fans may not agree but you should watch his actions carefully.

    There was absolutely no need for all these issues to go public and there’s only one person responsible for making them so.

    Watch this space. ;)

  22. i cant seem to understand why people are making a big deal out of this, he didnt try to put pressure on United or turn refs against them. He said what he feels (and about 30% of football fans) about the biased towards United. The media act totally unaware of it so he was just bringing it to attention. If i was Liverpool manager i would have pointed it out a LONGGGGGGGG time ago.

  23. Did you watch the video. He walks to the ref and syays anbout 2 words and walks off

    Not quite runs up and has a go

  24. Manchester United vs. Liverpool – the decider…

  25. @25: Yep, the decider on whether Utd are 7 or 10 points ahead………………..of Chelsea! :)

  26. The only reason that Newcastle did not win anything is because they bought Faustino Asprilla!!!

  27. Rafa is clearly getting himself worked up about something, curious given that Liverpool and United aren’t due to play in the forthcoming week, and also curious because we have never seen Sir Alex lose out in one of these exchanges. Rafa hasn’t got himself the credibility of a Ferguson or a Wenger, nor has he done so through endearing himself to the press a la Harry Redknapp. I still don’t really think he will be considered in the same way until he wins a league, and follows this up with something tangible. We have seen that Liverpool are capable of coping with the top teams, and that the first team (plus 3 or 4) are capable of mounting something serious. But my argument has always been that his squad purchases, Degan, Lucas, N’Gog, are not of suitable quality to bring in as and when required. The equivalents of which are Da Silva, Anderson and Tevez for Man United. This is not an unfair comparison, and will continue to not be so until Benitez proves otherwise. He needs luck, cash, or both.

    United are hot on their heels, and are more than capable of blitzing teams with their games in hand, with the quality of their squad, and it’s clear that Chelsea still have the systematic qualities of the Mourinho years at some level, and the squad to sustain a challenge. Liverpool have been impressive of late, but how long can this sustain?

  28. As of today the Liverpool fans seem to be turning wholesale on Benitez. One or two Liverpool fans on here may now want to revise their opinions.

    As I said in post 21….watch this space.

  29. a good time to come back to this thread :)