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January 9 2009 saw the moment which many have marked as the beginning of the end of Rafael Benitez's time at Liverpool.
In a prepared speech given by the Spanish coach in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Reds' trip to Stoke, Benitez cited what he now infamously described as facts about Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and his team's supposed preferential treatment from match officials and the Premier League.
His five-minute rant (as reported by The Guardian) began:
But I want to talk about facts. I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start. 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.
We started the Respect campaign, and that was when [Javier] Mascherano was sent off [last season] at Old Trafford. The referee [Steve Bennett] was the referee when they played against Wigan – he could not see the handball against Wigan by Rio Ferdinand, he did not give a penalty. They won the game and they won the title in this game. I think it will be the same referee who will be in charge of their game in hand this season [against Wigan].
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.
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. 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.
At the time, Liverpool were top of the Premier League table, but a run of three straight draws saw them slip to third by the end of the month.
The Reds ended the season second behind United, but they never came as close to the title again.