English Premiership

Benitez stands by 'Rafa rant'

2009-03-13 18:51
Rafa Benitez

Liverpool - Rafael Benitez is steeling himself for a hostile reception at Old Trafford on Saturday but the Liverpool manager has insisted he has no regrets over his attack on his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

"Rafa's rant", as it has become known, was unleashed in January with the Spaniard accusing Ferguson of exerting undue influence in the English game, as well as hypocrisy and serial whinging.

The uncharacteristic outburst has come to be seen as a turning point in the season as it was followed by a slide in Liverpool's domestic form that means United go into Saturday's meeting of the two clubs with a seven-point advantage and a game in hand.

But Benitez insisted on the eve of what has become a must-win match for his squad, that he had no regrets about saying something he feels needed to be said.

"It was the right time to say what I said," Benitez said. "They were facts, it was the right moment. I do not regret saying anything, and it did not have any effect on results.

"It had no effect on us hitting the post in the last minute at Stoke, it had no influence on them winning their games in hand. I have not spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson since, I do not expect any response from him and I do have great respect for him as a manager.

"I do not believe that my remarks, facts not comments, has had any effect on the title race."

Benitez is convinced money - rather than mind games - is what presents the real obstacle to Liverpool knocking United off their perch at the top of the English game.

"The difference between us, maybe, is 100 million pounds spent on players and a big stadium," he argued. "To overcome this difference we have to do everything perfectly. To reduce the gap between the clubs, everyone has to be together, we must not make too many mistakes signing players or running the club.

"The same with my team selection and for the players, during a game. It has to be perfect. Sir Alex has a very good group of players and a big club, that is really the gap. There is a massive difference in terms of the two clubs and their squads. Players, transfer records, wages, there is a big difference.

"The problem this season is that we were so close, top for so long, that expectations were very high."

Benitez said the return of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to full fitness had given his side a fresh impetus that was evident in the 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid in midweek.

"There is a greater desire," Benitez said. "We know how much of a difference it will be for us if we do win. Players will use this game to be extra-motivated, we will push them. We want them to be proud of what they have achieved, proud to play for the club and the fans.

"They must know that to go to Old Trafford and play well is part of their responsibility to the club. I sense that motivation is high, like before we beat Real Madrid in midweek, everyone wants to play.

"Everything is possible. If we can play with the same high tempo as we did against Real Madrid, and keep possession as well as we did, then we can win the game.

"We had confidence before the Real Madrid win, now the mood is even better, everyone is looking forward to the match. I do not believe they are untouchable, as has been suggested, clearly I believe we can win."

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