You have to say, Rafa Benitez’s flat out childish bitterness after Manchester United secured the title on Saturday is nothing short of embarrassing. To claim that the Champions are not the best team in the league is one thing, sometimes you could probably argue that successfully, but then to refuse to even congratulate Ferguson himself on winning and 18th title is quite another. Liverpool fans, in my experience, are as divided about Rafa as we are supposed to be about Marmite, they either love him or they hate him – after this latest display of petulance, I think a few more will feel the latter emotion.
Indeed, many may well feel that it was Benitez’s Keegan-esque outburst earlier this year that really handed United the initiative in the title race. Liverpool had, at one point, a pretty decent lead over United, but they crumbled under the pressure, and Benitez, with his ill-advised rant, showed the world that Liverpool were feeling the heat. I’m not Alex Ferguson’s biggest fan by any means, but you have to concede that he has never crumbled under pressure, in fact it seems to drive him on, and that is why he is head and shoulders above Benitez.
Let’s look at Benitex’s claim that United are not the best team in the Premier League, and that his Liverpool side are. You have to accept that United didn’t perform particularly well against their biggest rivals this season and that yes, the majority of their points were picked up against lower teams. And yes, Liverpool lost only half as many games as United did over the season, and they scored more goals than them.
However, United won more games, they conceded slightly fewer goals and more importantly, they didn’t draw 11 games. Benitez may well claim that Liverpool were better because they beat their closest rivals, but when they stumble to draws against Stoke (twice), Hull and Wigan to name a few, you see where their season went wrong.
Benitez scoffed at United’s credentials because they beat mostly the lower teams and not the top ones, but surely Liverpool should be scoffed at too, because they did not have the quality to see off these teams that Benitez himself believes are unworthy as consideration deciding who is the best team in the league. The best team, as far as I’m concerned, beats whichever team is in front of them, and mostly, United did that, winning 73% of their matches (so far), while Liverpool have only won 64.9% of their games, drawing an excessive 29.7% of their matches.
So that Rafa, is why United are the Champions, and that is why they are the best team in the League this season. The whole point of a league competition is to determine who is the best team over the course of a season, not over the course of six matches against their main rivals, and it is perhaps Rafa’s lack of specific focus and a cool head that cost his side in the long run.
So surely the least Rafa could do, would be to offer some congratulations to the man who has beaten him? Sure, no one likes losing, I like it less than most I think, and can get really bitter sometimes. But I’m still man enough to congratulate the winners because ultimately, they have won out on the day. Refusing such a gentlemanly act is simply childish, showing Benitez up to be a sore loser, and someone who we probably don’t want involved in the game.
There is a certain element of ironic humour though, in these combined acts of chilishness though. That Benitez insists his side are superior to Manchester United and his refusal to congratulate Sir Alex Ferguson on leading his team to victory over that ‘superior’ side is hilarious. If Rafa truly believes that his Liverpool side is the best, then combined with his obviously large ego, surely he must accept that it took an act of great talent and skill for a lesser man to lead a lesser side to victory over his magnificent one, and so congratulations are therefore all the more in order, are they not?
As it is though, Benitez has simply made himself look like a bitter fool, and bathed the often lamented Ferguson in an extremely positive light. Most of the country needs little excuse to dislike Ferguson, the ogre like figure who commands obedience of referees and timekeepers alike, but we all grudgingly respect him for the great achievements that he has brought to United. Because he is a truly great manager. To win 18 league titles, and 3 on the bounce now, as well as two Champions Leagues and perhaps a third on the way, as well as the countless other trophies is an incredible feat.
To build two great teams, that of ’99 and now ’09 is a hell of an achievement, especially considering that during the rebuilding process, the success never really stopped. It is a feat that Benitez can only dream of. While Ferguson has built teams of quality with the help of a large bank balance, he has also harnessed a lot of young English talent. Benitez got close this season based on the efforts of two men – Steven Gerrard, who he inherited in his World Class state, and Fernando Torres who he bought for an obscene but justified amount of money.
That Benitez has the cheek to suggest that United’s success is all down to money is galling not because it is untrue, United wouldn’t be where they are today without the considerable investment they’ve profited from, but given the amount of money that Benitez has thrown away on average players during his time at Liverpool, it is tremendously hypocritical. At least Fergsuon can buy well, whereas Benitez picks a dud far more often than he does a Torres. Two words: Robbie Keane.
At the end of the day then, this on going little feud between Benitez and Fergsuon is pretty one sided. Ferguson, as far as I’m aware hasn’t responded to Rafa’s ridiculous jibes, and neither should he. He is after all, the one with the bulging trophy cabinet. He’s got 18 titles and Rafa doesn’t have any. Rafa needs to shut his mouth and open his eyes. If he wasn’t so busy bitterly trying to scythe Fergie down with his words, he might actually be able to learn a thing or two from him.
At the end of the day though, I don’t really care. I would be more than happy if Benitez continues to shoot his mouth off every other week. Because all he is doing is turning himself and his club into a bitter little joke, and sabotaging any hope they have of achieving real success. And for me, an Evertonian and proud supporter of one of the most charismatic, honest and likeable managers in the land in David Moyes, that’s just great.