It’s Rafael Benitez’s Friday press conference. It is put to him, that Sir Alex Ferguson, has said that nerves may ruin Liverpool’s title bid. Benitez responds, by drawing a piece of paper from his pocket.
On it, are listed Benitez’s accusations, about Ferguson and his attitude to referees, and the fixture list. It’s a response from the Spaniard, that many are comparing to Kevin Keegan’s rant, in the year Newcastle United blew a Premiership title lead.
Well. we will only know if Benitez’s behaviour is an act of self-sabotage, if Liverpool, fail to clinch the Premiership title. Keegan’s emotional explosion, very likely lost him the respect of some of his players. When they needed their leader to be cool, calm and collected, he was emotional, and angry.
Benitez’s response is much less emotional. He has planned what he wants to say. His emotions are seemingly under control. It’s unlikely that he will have lost the respect of the dressing room. But, does he need to say anything?
So, Sir Alex Ferguson think that nerves may undermine Liverpool’s title bid. Well, it’s true. They might. Benitez merely needs to shrug off the question. No response is required.
By responding in the way that he has, the Spaniard has opened up the debate. Now, questions will be asked of Liverpool’s nerve, right throughout the season.
Presumably, Benitez wants to counter Ferguson’s claims. Perhaps he feels it a sign of weakness, if he doesn’t respond back. Maybe he is feeling some of the pressure, that goes with chasing your first Premiership title, as manager? And is releasing that pressure, via his press conference.
You can be sure, that the Manchester United manager, will be pleased with the response from Anfield. Benitez’s remarks, enables Ferguson to place in front of his players, further evidence, that people are against them. It reinforces his US v THEM strategy.
Rafael Benitez states twice, that he is not playing mind games. But by responding to Ferguson’s claims, he is doing exactly that. It may be that Benitez’s players, will be inspired by his defiance. But it is a gamble. Better to be smart. Smile and keep your counsel. The best response to signs of nerves, is on the football pitch.