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13th Sep 2015

Steven Gerrard admits he was ’embarrassed’ by Rafa Benitez’s infamous ‘facts’ rant

'He was humiliating himself'...

Gareth Makim

It’s a now notorious moment in the long-standing rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United, but Steven Gerrard knew straight away that Rafael Benitez’s infamous ‘facts’ rant would come back to haunt the Spaniard and the club.

Benitez chose the moment when Liverpool were top of the table in the 2008/9 season to unburden himself of what he perceived were the ‘facts’ when it came to United and boss Alex Ferguson.

But Gerrard, sitting at home watching on television, could not believe his normally unflappable manager was letting his emotions get the better of him.

Writing in the extract of his autobiography, My Story, to be published in the Mail on Sunday, Gerrard says of Benitez:

One time he did suffer a meltdown involving Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. I went home from training that Friday lunchtime and switched on the TV.

Rafa sat down with his usual half-smile. It looked likely to be a normal press conference, but then he reached into his pocket for a piece of paper.

He spread it out on the table and began to read out one ‘fact’ after another.

Rafa kept saying ‘fact… fact… fact…’ and I could not believe what I was hearing. I was grabbing the couch, digging my fingers into the arms, feeling embarrassed for him.

The Liverpool legend continued:

Rafa started by saying that maybe Manchester United ‘are nervous because we are at the top of the table’. I thought: ‘Uh oh, what’s happening here?’

It seemed so unlike Rafa to talk in such an emotional way. You could see the anger in him. ‘I want to talk about facts,’

Rafa said. ‘I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start. But I have seen some facts.’

Rafa went off on a ramble about how Manchester United and ‘Mr Ferguson’ had not been properly punished for various misdemeanours.

He listed dates and incidents and concluded that ‘Mr Ferguson is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things’

He then railed against the fixture list and the timing of matches being skewed in United’s favour. Rafa was sounding muddled and bitter and paranoid.

And Gerrard’s fears were realised when he met up with some of United’s players while on international duty, where they were quick to mock Fergie’s mental superiority over Benitez.

He was humiliating himself. It was a disaster. I couldn’t understand Rafa’s thinking in wanting to take on Ferguson, a master of mind games, when we were sitting so calmly on top of the table early into a new year.

When I met up with England all the Manchester United players told me Fergie was just laughing at Rafa, saying: ‘I’ve got him. I’ve got him.’