Sunday, 17 May 2009

Rafa will knock Fergie off his perch

A number of media outlets are clearly attempting to re-fuel the feud between Benitez and Fergie by claiming Rafa refuses to congratulate Ferguson for winning the league. Well quite frankly why should he? Ferguson has consistently made it his resolve to bash Liverpool, beginning with his famous I want to “knock Liverpool off their fucking perch” statement, to last years "I did my job of getting rid of Liverpool from the top a long time ago. The club will take care of the rest." Clearly the man has Liverpool ‘issue’s’. He has relentlessly pursued the club for many years with the LFC symbolising a sort of 'Moby Dick' to Fergie's Captain Ahab. Fergie would be advised to read the novel. Its themes include: Revenge, obsession and sanity. To Ahab, killing the whale becomes the ultimate goal in his life. But he doesn’t realise the whale is a symbol for many things, including nature and those elements of life that are out of human control.

The media is clear in it's contrasting reports of Ferguson, and Benitez. Fergie has consistently disrespected other players, teams and managers during his reign as manager yet his outbursts are seen as “mind games”. Rafa criticises what he see’s as a clear biased towards United by referee’s and it’s seen as an “attack”. Clearly the press are unwilling to criticise Ferguson too greatly for fear that he may bar them from interviews. His ongoing refusal to speak to the BBC since September 2007 a clear illustration of this. When Liverpool Hammered United 1-4 in March, their worst home defeat in 17 years, what did Fergie do? He spat out his dummy, refused to speak to the waiting press, instead giving his only interview to Man Utd TV, where he proclaimed "I thought we were the better team", then snubbed an interview with Sky Sports claiming the 12:45 kick off time had given Liverpool an unfair advantage.

Would Fergie have congratulated Rafa if Liverpool had won the Premiership? I think we all know the answer to that one. He couldn't even congratulate David Moyes after Everton knocked them out of the FA cup and he’s a manager ‘friendly’ to Fergie’s cause, instead he went on to moan that "Everton didn't make one chance in the game. I couldn't see Everton scoring, put it that way.” As proof that Fergie only congratulates teams he doesn’t see as a threat, try typing “Ferguson congratulates Chelsea or Arsenal on winning the Premiership” into Google and see what you get.

Speaking at the post match press conference after the win at West Brom, Rafa had this to say about United winning the league:

"I will say congratulations to Manchester United. They have done well, but I do not want to say too much. I prefer just to say well done to the club, a big club, a good club. Normally you have to be polite and respect the other manager. During the season we have seen a lot of things that I didn't like, so that's it. I say congratulations to United because they have won. And that's it."

This has of course prompted furious headlines like:

“Benitez withholds Ferguson praise” Says the BBC, it then goes on to say “Benitez's comments will only serve to continue the on-going feud between the two managers as they have traded blows while their teams have battled for the league crown.”

Sky Sports reports: “Benitez ice cold with Alex” stating “Reds boss refuses to congratulate rival” the article goes on to say that “Benitez and Ferguson have rarely seen eye-to-eye this term, with the Spaniard launching an astonishing attack earlier in the season with his presentation of a series of 'facts' relating to United and Ferguson.” Notice the story says Rafa “launched an attack” on Ferguson.

The article then goes on to say “The Scot responded later in the campaign by accusing Benitez of 'arrogance' and 'contempt' in his dealings with fellow top-flight managers.” Notice the article says Ferguson “responded”. Another clear highlight of biased reporting

The Daily Mail screams with the headline “Rafa re-ignites Fergie feud – Liverpool boss Benitez refuses to congratulate United’s champion chief Sir Alex”. The article claims that Rafa “was twice given the opportunity at the post match press conference to congratulate Ferguson on winning the title. Each time he made it clear that he was only prepared to congratulate the Old Trafford club as a whole.”

The Daily Mirror appears to be the only paper that’s backing Rafa. They have run the story: “Rift proves Liverpool are closing in”. The article goes on to say “Instead of the usual message of congratulations, Benitez has sent a defiant warning to United that Liverpool will overtake them next season. Benitez said: "Ferguson used to be my friend, he was OK with me, and everything was fine between us - before this season. "Over the past four years or so he never spoke about Liverpool. This year has changed everything in our relationship. He now talks about Liverpool all the time and I think that shows we are now the team to challenge him. If Ferguson wants to speak about Liverpool that is fine, but it is my job to defend my club - and that is what I will always do. I will not play his games. It is clear to me that we have improved this season and it doesn't matter what he has to say about us. Benitez added: "I know what Ferguson's ambition was when he went to United, what he said about Liverpool.

Clearly Rafa completely understands Ferguson’s single minded pursuit of Liverpool and recognizes all the ‘win at all costs’ tricks the bitter manager is willing to pull. He coerced Allardyce into his pact to undermine Benitez because of a simple hand gesture. Rafa clearly understood the nature of this attack and its true purpose, which was explained thoroughly in my blog here. Fergie of course forgot the celebration he gave on the 19th January 2008. When United scored against Reading at the Madejski Stadium, Fergie gave a series of ‘up yours’ salutes towards the Reading fans whilst running up the touch line. Not at all disrespectful, arrogant or lacking in humility.

But Rafa is made of different stock. He has dignity, poise and is unwilling to bend over and accept what he see’s as unjust behavior. The Mirror article finishes with a great quote:
"My ambition? It's to win every game for Liverpool and not worry about other teams. To challenge for the title so well this season is a good achievement. Of course, that isn't good enough. Liverpool want to be No.1. But we are getting closer and I think we can do it."

Fergie should be afraid because Rafa is a much younger man then him, with many more years to be successful. Possibly the real satisfaction for any Red would be to see Fergie’s ambition to topple Liverpool thwarted at the final hurdle. Man United have matched Liverpool’s record, not beaten it. I believe Liverpool will finally win the Premier League next year and Rafa will be knocking Fergie off his perch.

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