Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fergie's nightmare after Rafa's rant

Sir Alex Ferguson intends to consult the works of great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud to try and work out what lies behind the legend of 'Rafa's rant'.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez let forth a string of invective against his Manchester United counterpart in January, accusing Ferguson of exerting undue influence on the English game and claiming the Scot was a hypocrite and a whinger.


ally from the moment Benitez had finished his tirade, Liverpool's fortunes have slumped as United charged clear in the title race, Ferguson felt no need to respond.

The Scot still feels the same now, in fact he is totally non-plussed at the reason for Benitez's outburst.

"I would need to read more Freud before I could really understand it and where it came from," reflected Ferguson.

"I am not really interested. It never bothered me at the time and it doesn't bother me now."

Ferguson does accept their respective positions mean he will never be bosom buddies with the former Valencia coach. It is the same with another long-standing rival, Arsene Wenger, although it does not prevent the Red Devils chief accepting what a brilliant coach the Frenchman is.

"Anybody that manages Liverpool is a rival to me," he said.

"Over the years we have had Kenny (Dalglish), Graeme (Souness), Roy (Evans), Gerard (Houllier) and now Rafa. It doesn't matter who manages Liverpool, they will always be a rival, it is part of the history.

"It's the same with Arsenal. Arsene and I have had our fall outs but you must respect the quality of football he produces. The Arsenal team has got Wenger written right across it."

For United and their fans however, Liverpool represent something else entirely.

Ferguson recognised the mutual loathing as soon as he came down from Aberdeen and vowed to knock the Merseyside outfit off their perch as kings of England.

That aim has long since been achieved but there are a few other factors likely to give tomorrow's showdown more spice than usual.

United are chasing an 18th league title to match Liverpool's long-standing record for a start. Benitez's men are desperate to stop them and realise that, seven points adrift having played a game more, nothing but a win will do.

Then there are the controversial comments Wayne Rooney made to MUTV in midweek, outlining his personal hatred of the Anfield outfit, which have only served to stoke the fires even more.

"Liverpool have always been our main rival," said Ferguson.

"It does not matter what the position in the league, as far as I am concerned, it has always been the derby game.

"It will always be that way because of the geography and history of the two cities.

"We are the two most successful football clubs in England. When they get together you expect sparks to fly."

Sparks are not the only thing that have flown at Rooney during these stormy affairs. Mobile phones have been hauled at the England striker by more extreme Liverpool supporters, to go with bucketloads of abuse he can expect from the visiting fans tomorrow.

Little wonder he feels the way he does, although, as Gary Neville has learned after expressing similar sentiments over a decade ago, airing private views in public can cause a career full of grief from one half on Merseyside.

"Hate is an easy word to say, easier than dislike. Maybe it is not the right word," said Ferguson.

"But Wayne has had plenty of stick from Liverpool fans over the years, so it is understandable.

"He supported Everton as a kid and the rivalry between then and Liverpool is pretty ferocious now. Since then he has come to Manchester United and he wants to win.

"It is nothing out of the ordinary really."

There is something symbolic about an 18th title for United. As they were only on seven when Liverpool reached that figure, just under four years after Ferguson replaced Ron Atkinson, it is not something the Scot ever had as a long-term plan.

Now the Red Devils are nearly there, Ferguson is looking much further ahead, certain the day will eventually dawn when his club are not just level, but ahead.

"This team will win more league championships," he said.

"Whatever happens, this year is only part of the future which looks very good for our young players.

"There is evidence that we have a group that can stay together for quite a few years."

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