The Great Debate: Rafael Benitez's Tirade Against Sir Alex Ferguson

Barney CorkhillSenior Writer IJanuary 9, 2009

For over two decades, Sir Alex Ferguson has been the king of mind games. His perfectly timed comments have thrown many opponents astray.

He gets under the skin of managers, and causes them to bite. Who could forget Kevin Keegan's infamous rant? ("I would love it if we beat them!")

Today, it seems like we have seen another Keegan-like moment, as Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez launched into an astonishing tirade against the Manchester United manager in his pre-match press conference.

He dealt in facts, rubbishing the claims that Manchester United always had the odds against them with the fixture list.

Benitez pointed out that Ferguson was the only one to not be punished by the FA, following his comments after the Portsmouth FA Cup game last season, and that the fixture list wasn't as unkind to them as they had made out.

In fact, he turned one of Ferguson's comments around, saying that playing the top teams away from home in the first half of the season is an advantage because then you play them all at home during the title run-in.

Makes sense.

The reaction to this seems to be mixed. United fans believe that Ferguson has got to Benitez, and has made him crack under the pressure. While Liverpool fans believe that Benitez is standing up to Ferguson, like everyone else should.

After all, it is impossible to deny some of Benitez's comments. They are, as he said, facts.

Now, if Benitez has cracked under the pressure then well done to Ferguson, you've claimed another managerial scalp.

However, I think this could be a masterstroke. Not by Ferguson, but by Benitez.

In highlighting these undeniable facts, Benitez has ensured that the FA will take notice next time the words "controversy" and "Ferguson" crop up in the same sentence. They will make sure he doesn't get away with it.

If this was a case of Rafa just going off on one, I would see it differently, but it wasn't. Benitez was reading his points from a sheet, so this "rant" was pre-meditated.

Thought had gone into it. Do you really think Benitez would think about this and then go ahead with it if he didn't have a plan of his own?

Mr. Ferguson, you may have met your match.

Benitez said that he wasn't interested in the "mind-games", but even Fergie has said that before. This was a mind-game played by Benitez.

This was no spur of the moment rant, it was a well-thought out and measured response to Ferguson's attempted manipulation.

You're going to have to try better next time, Fergie!