Saturday, 10 January 2009

Has Rafa delivered an "I Would Luv It, Luv It" moment?

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has launched an astonishing attack on Sir Alex Ferguson, by claiming he's above punishment from the game's governing bodies. The Spaniard says Ferguson is the only manager who is not be reprimanded for outspoken attacks on referees and officials

"We had a Respect campaign meeting and I said forget it, because Mr Ferguson is killing the referees," said Benitez.
He was responding to Ferguson's midweek comment that nerves might ruin Liverpool's title bid, before issuing his tirade against the United boss. Fergie's reply was issued after his team's crushing victory over Chelsea the following Sunday. Some would say Fergie's team did all the talking - but he still branded Rafa angry and distressed.
Rafa's extraordinary outburst came after a journalist asked him for his response to Fergie's suggesting that Premier League leaders Liverpool might get nervous in the run-in.
"I was surprised by what has been said, but maybe they (Manchester United) are nervous because we are at the top of the table," added Benitez.
The Spaniard then pulled out a sheet of paper and read out a list of accusations about Fergie's conduct regarding referees, the FA's Respect campaign and fixture lists. "I want to talk about facts," said Benitez. "I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start.
"During the Respect campaign - and this is a fact - Mr Ferguson was charged by the FA for improper conduct after comments made about Martin Atkinson and Keith Hackett.
"He was not punished. He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things.
"How can you talk about the Respect campaign and yet criticise the referee every single week?
"We know what happens every time we go to Old Trafford and the United staff. They are always going man-to-man with the referees, especially at half-time when they walk close to the referees and they are talking and talking.
"All managers need to know is that only Mr Ferguson can talk about the fixtures, can talk about referees - and nothing happens.
"We need to know that I am talking about facts, not my impression. There are things that everyone can see every single week.
"To complain and to always have an advantage is not fair."
Benitez also heavily criticised Ferguson's complaints over supposed favouritism over fixtures. "Two years ago we had a lot of early kick-offs away on Saturdays when United were playing on Sundays. And we didn't say anything," said the Reds boss.
"Now he is complaining about everything, that everybody is against United. But the second half of the season will see them playing at home against all the teams at the top of the table, it is a fantastic advantage.
"If he wants to talk about fixtures, and have a level playing field, there are two options if we don't want more problems with fixtures.
"One is the same as in Spain, the draw for the first part of the league is known, everyone knows which weekend. In the second half everyone plays the opposite, so you all know.
"Or there is another option. That Mr Ferguson organises the fixtures in his office and sends it to us and everyone will know and cannot complain. That is simple."
It's crafty and timely from Rafa, coming as it does before United's six-pointer at home to Chelsea. It was calculated and pre-meditated as opposed to Super Kev's spectacular loss of cool in 1996.
But whatever happens between these two - and whatever charges are brought (or not) against Rafa, this title race will be won on the field of play. Fergie might be allowed a little chuckle to himself about this.
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  1. "The answer is simply NO. Kevin Keegan was talkiing from the heart, an emotional outpouring caused by Slur Alex's winding up. Rafa was talking from the head. It was pre-meditated, well thought out delivered from a written script. He knew what he was doing and it was a clear cool attempt to shut the Ayatolla Hogmonay and make the refs and the football world think twice before bowing to his demands in future. About time somebody said it."

  2. I think he's right. Ferguson. I've said since October I think United will win the title. Liverpool will have their best league season in years, but I think United will catch up. Benitez should have kept quiet and let his players do the talking on the pitch like Ferguson would have done.

  3. Rafa's outburst was completely planned. KK was talking after a game, and had got to the end of his tether! It was a great outburst from the permed one, though!
    Rafa knows what he is doing, I believe. Must say, I love to hear all the banter between the managers.

  4. In cricket, any smart batsman who is about to face an over from Shane Warne will NOT try to wind him up or provoke him in any way. You want him to be nice and quiet. If you get to him, he responds by going into another gear, and it becomes even harder to play against him. I’ve seen it happen.

    The same applies in darts with Phil Taylor. I recall an incident at a PDC World Championship match against Chris Mason a few years ago. Mason spent the day before giving a series of interviews to newspaper journalists where he repeatedly stated that he hated the fact Taylor drove a Bentley and didn’t like other things about him. During the match itself, Mason hurled some vile abuse at Taylor, for which he was rightly punished by the authorities.

    How did Taylor respond? He just turned his game up a notch and absolutely annihilated Mason.

    My point is, attempts to wind up true champions can often backfire spectacularly. Rafa’s was delivered in a more considered and thoughtful way than Keegan’s, but I suspect the end result will be the same. Sir Alex will respond by sending his players out onto the pitch more determined than ever to win the title.

    If I was in Rafa’s position, I wouldn’t say or do anything to upset Sir Alex, in fact I’d prefer it if we got on well. Nobody can beat Sir Alex at mind games, he won’t be hurt or upset by any of this. If Rafa is sincere in his concerns about refereeing and the scheduling of fixtures, he should have gone through the proper channels to address the matters, and not turned it into a public feud.

    I’m not saying Man Utd are a dead cert to win the title, but Rafa has just made the job of keeping them at bay a whole lot harder.

  5. A planned outburst and a valid one. But this is a clear sign that Rafa is feeling the heat and I have to say that United are again looking favourites for the title.

  6. Kevin Keegan he became crazy man and to be sure goes mentally loopy when pressures are on him and he runs away and he cries. Rafa he not like that. He complains with decency and sanity to be sure and it is true that Fergie speaks as he wants and gets away with this murder.


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