When Rafa Benitez began his extraordinary
outpouring of Fergie-bashing on Friday, he said he did not want to start any
mind games, which is a bit like Hitler saying he didn't
want a war as Panzers were rolling into Warsaw.
Benitez said he was interested only
in facts. Sadly, even the briefest look at what he actually said reveals that
he is to facts what Prince Harry is to race relations.
FICTION 1: "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
FACT 1: Rafael Benitez,
September 2007: "We will be talking to the Premier League about this because
it is not fair. I don't know if it
is possible to change these fixtures in the New Year, but I hope so because, in
the last few years, we have played more games on a Saturday than anyone and
more away games than
anyone. There are too many early kick-offs and I am not pleased about the
situation at all."
FICTION 2: "You can see every
single week how they put (referees) under pressure, we know this. We have seen
it before. We have seen players sent off at Old Trafford and we do not see our
opponents sent off."
FACT 2: Opposition players sent off
at Old Trafford in the league this season - none. Stoke's
Andy Wilkinson is the only player to be sent off against United in the Premier
League this season. Opposition players sent off against Liverpool
this season - five, including Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United.
FICTION 3: "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."
FACT 3: Last time ED checked everyone
had to play everyone else twice - surely the order in which you play your games
is irrelevant. And it's not like
United covered themselves in glory in their away games against the top four -
one point out of nine hardly represents a fantastic advantage.
FICTION 4: "At Christmas, United
played on the 29th and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away
against Newcastle two days after playing Bolton. They were playing about 40 hours later, they were
not complaining then."
FACT 4: United played 31 hours later,
but their opponents Middlesbrough also had the
benefit of an extra day's rest so it
wasn't much help. And Liverpool's game against Newcastle was so one-sided they would have
exerted themselves more by staying in and watching Wallace and Gromit. Plus, to
be really pedantic, Aston Villa - who are level on points with United - played Hull on Tuesday 30.
FICTION 5: "There are two
options if we don't want more
problems with fixtures. One is the same as in Spain, the draw for the first part
of the league is known, everyone knows which weekend. In the second-half
everyone plays the opposite, so you all know."
FACT 5: That wouldn't help at all. You all know your fixtures anyway,
and a Spanish system wouldn't stop
United playing all of the Big Four at home in the second half of the season.
FICTION 6: "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
FACT 6: Harry Redknapp
can also get away with it, having got off scot-free for this pop at Steve
Tanner: "He's a poor referee and I've
seen him make a mess of so many games. I couldn't
even put into words what I thought of his performance. I walked into the
referee's room before the game and
saw who was refereeing and I knew what was coming. I expected that sort of
performance. I've had him before
many times and I know what he's
like. He's really not good
FICTION 7: "I will be watching
United's game with Chelsea. The result does not matter to us, if
we win at Stoke that result does not matter."
FACT 7: Sorry, that one was a fact.
- - -
Damn those foreign footballers. Despite a recent campaign to promote reading
led, inevitably, by David James, there are few British players who can honestly
claim they have ever read a book from start to finish. Even the ones who have
supposedly 'written' one.
Which made it all the more galling to hear Fulham's Norwegian defender Brede Hangeland saying he was
going to read some Charles Dickens since he was living in London.
"Somebody said it's
quite boring but I'll give it a
go," said Hangeland, who also revealed he read Danish literature when he was a Copenhagen player.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE DAY 1: Kevin Davies on Arsenal's
play-acting: "A few of them let out a big scream, which is a bit
embarrassing really because it is a man's
game. (Kolo) Toure did one and he is a big, strong man. He was screaming 'my leg'
which is a bit unnecessary."
QUOTE OF THE DAY 2: "I think he is an angry man and I
think he was disturbed for some reason." - Fergie on Benitez. Mind games
are always easier when you have just whomped Chelsea 3-0.
QUOTE OF THE DAY 3: "Snooker is s**t" - Ronnie O'Sullivan.
NUTMEG OF THE DAY: Wayne Rooney, who stuck his right boot
between Ashley Cole's legs to score
FASHION ACCESSORY OF THE DAY: Why was Jose Mourinho wearing
what looked like a giant dog collar around his neck at Old Trafford? Had he
come straight from Max Mosley's
FOREIGN VIEW: Atletico Madrid's
Liga match at home to Athletic Bilbao had to be
halted for a minute due to a continual barrage
of snowballs being thrown towards the visitors' goal.
"Before the start of the game and when
we were on the pitch home fans behind the goal
defended by Bilbao threw numerous snowballs
towards the goal, some of them hitting the goalkeeper,"
referee Cesar Muniz Fernandez said in his match report.
The game started after a message had been put
out over the stadium PA system asking fans to
"In the fifth minute, I was forced to
stop the game for a minute because of the
continuous throwing of snowballs and had to ask
officials to take the necessary measures." The
game restarted and Bilbao
went on to win 3-2.
COMING UP: There are two games from League One this evening - follow them with
our live scoring service. In the meantime, there is plenty to be going on with,
including Team of the Week, Winners and Losers, and the story of how Diego
Maradona helped Manchester United to victory yesterday.