Studs Up

Beyond The Pale?
April 17, 2009, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Football, Liverpool FC


The war of words between Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez has burst back into the limelight today following an incredible Friday pre-match press conference involving the Manchester Utd manager. Ferguson’s comments regarding the Liverpool manager are, in my opinion, absolutely outrageous. He calls Benitez “arrogant”, suggests that he behaves unlike any Liverpool manager before him, and even labels him “beyond the pale”, all of which seems very extreme indeed. Moreover, Ferguson has been joined by Sam Allardyce, who is apparently upset about a gesture that Benitez made following Fernando Torres’ 2nd goal against his Blackburn side at Anfield last Saturday. Benitez made a hand signal, which can be seen here (about 1 minute 20 seconds in), which Allardyce has somehow interpreted as some sort of disrespectful gesture towards he and his team. Ferguson seems to share this interpretation, but in calling for more respect, both seem to have conventiently forgotten that Allardyce described Benitez as a man who “loves to whinge” ahead of last weekend’s game. In addition to this, has Ferguson forgotten Mourinho’s dance down the touchline following Costinha’s goal in 2004? Sure that was a little bit more extreme than Rafa’s brief gesture, yet Ferguson recently described the Portuguese as terrific for football. So where is the consistency?!


Paul Tomkins article on the subject points to a few of the inconsistencies in Ferguson’s stance, but the most striking thing for me is that Ferguson has, seemingly out of nowhere, decided to abandon his “not bothered” approach to his verbal battle with Benitez and has now fully waded in. If anything, he has raised the stakes, because although Benitez has questioned Ferguson’s behaviour towards the FA and referees, as well as suggesting that the Utd manager feels under pressure from Liverpool, he has not to my knowledge made a personal attack. But, in directly calling Benitez “arrogant” and “beyond the pale” Ferguson now has.

All in all, something doesn’t sit quite right. Why did Allardyce wait so long to disclose his discontent at Benitez’s perceived contempt? Why is Ferguson making headlines talking about Benitez in the run up to an FA Cup semi-final with Everton, not Liverpool. Could it be that Ferguson is a little bit worried now that his Utd side have 10 matches to play between now and the end of the season, while Liverpool only need to prepare for 6? Benitez did suggest that it might suit Ferguson as little better if it where Liverpool who progressed to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Chelsea. So, Ferguson’s sudden tirade in the aftermath of Chelsea’s amazing win does tend to support that theory.

Either way, I may be biased (well, obviously I’m very biased), but Ferguson and Allardyce seem to me to be completely out of order. They are conspiring to make things genuinely personal, which is just taking things a bit far. Benitez has received much criticism for supposedly labelling Everton a “small club”, but was what he said as extreme as the wonderful comments of Bill Shankly? The great man once said “there are two good football teams in Merseyside, Liverpool…. and Liverpool Reserves”, but rather than being lambasted for disrespect, he was hailed as a great character, and rightly so.


Ferguson has definitely stepped things up a notch in his verbal sparring with Benitez, but the ultimate measure of success will be in trophies at the end of the season. Arsenal visit Liverpool on Tuesday night, and anything other than 3 points for the home team will hand the title to Man Utd on a nice silver platter. So I for one will be hoping that the jibes of Allardyce and Ferguson do not have their desired effect.


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