In reality Rafa blew Liverpool's chances of knocking Manchester United off their perch when he lost his sh*t. Now imagine what would have been had he put that piece of paper away.
In reality Rafa blew Liverpool’s chances of knocking Manchester United off their perch when he lost his sh*t. Now imagine what would have been had he put that piece of paper away.
Remember Rafa’s rant? Imagine what Liverpool could have achieved if it had never happened?
Obviously I have no proof of this but nobody will ever be able to persuade me that the piece of paper didn’t have something to do with it. Possibly everything.
It seems a small thing when you look back at it but time will see January 8th 2009 as pivotal in Liverpool’s history.
We were top of the table, something that hadn’t happened for quite some time. Benitez’ plans appeared to be coming to some kind of fruition although there were still strong rumours that we would lose Alonso at the end of the season, Rafa’s unseemly public courtship of Gareth Barry having apparently upset the midfielder although if he was unsettled, he was displaying his dissatisfaction with a frankly world class season.
Ferguson had, of course, been shooting his mouth off. The usual paltry gamesmanship, desperate to disrupt Liverpool’s momentum, complaining about the rough hand that the fixture list had dealt United; playing away in the league after every away Champions League fixture. Obviously nobody else had ever had a comparable challenge. Certainly not us the previous year.
At his weekly press conference on that Thursday a journalist asked Benitez for his response to Ferguson’s suggestion that Liverpool may become nervous in the run in.
“I was surprised by what has been said but maybe they (Manchester United) are nervous because we are at the top of the table,” he replied and proceeded to pull a small folded piece of paper from his pocket. It appeared for a second as though he intended to read from it before changing his mind and returning it from whence it came. To this day he has refused to talk about the contents of the note. The theory is that he had prepared a statement of some. Presumably we will have to wait until his tenure at Anfield ends and his inevitable biography in order to find out.
The Saturday following Rafa’s press conference saw a slim win at Stoke maintain our lead at the top of the table with the following week’s confident victory over our neighbours Everton at Anfield afforded us some breathing space. Space which proved necessary with a disappointing draw away at Wigan on the 28th of the month
The disappointing and nigh on traditional loss away at Middlesborough was the only low point of the rest of the season. The high point? The 4-1 victory over Manchester United at their own ground as our procession toward title 19 gathered pace.
The 4-4 home draw with Arsenal could have proved problematic if it were not for them also holding United to a draw (although goalless and infinitely less entertaining) at Old Trafford.
Whatever Alonso’s intentions had been earlier in the summer, it would appear that the hysteria surrounding our first league title in 18 years and our first of the Premiership era was enough to convince him that his future remained at Anfield. The addition of the much scouted long term target David Silva the following summer provided the extra spark of creativity and class that Benitez had long sought giving us the wherewithal to notch up European Cup number 6 with a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich at the Bernabeau.
Although the addition of Luis Suarez to the the squad at the beginning of 2011 has only seen last season’s FA Cup victory over Chelsea added to our trophy tally and United appear to have wrapped up this season’s league to bring them to the number 18 that we were stuck on for so long the emergence of new young talent such as Suso, Sterling, Wisdom and Kelly gives hope for the future.
As Rafael Benitez heads toward his tenth season at Anfield and a hopefully renewed title charge following three consecutive third place finishes it looks as though we owe a great deal to that fateful Thursday in January 2009 and a mysterious change of mind over a small, unexplained piece of paper.