The football was nothing to write home about in 2008-2009 but in terms of excitement and nerves, it was one of the best seasons for years. As usual, we were fighting it out for the title, but this time it was against our hated rivals, Liverpool.
United were a few matches behind everyone else at the turn of the year after taking time out to compete in and win the FIFA World Club Cup. By the time we returned, Liverpool were at the top of the table. Then one afternoon, Rafael Benitez flipped his lid, went to a match day press conference with a piece of paper with ‘facts’ about Sir Alex Ferguson and set us up for a fantastic end to the season.
That weekend, Liverpool drew 0-0 at Stoke and United beat Chelsea 3-0, moving five points behind Benitez’s team, but with two games in hand. Four months later we equalled their record of 18 league titles.
The following season, Liverpool finished 7th, 22 points behind United, and Benitez left the club by “mutual consent”, although reportedly settled for a £6m pay out by the club.
Benitez then inherited Jose Mourinho’s Treble winning Inter Milan team but was sacked a few months in to the job after falling 13 points behind AC Milan in the league. He has been out of work since but that hasn’t dampened his feelings for our manager.
Ahead of today’s game against Liverpool, Benitez was asked about the importance of Sir Alex Ferguson in United’s recent dominance. Hilariously, the Spaniard claimed our 12 league titles, 2 European Cups, 5 FA Cups and 4 League Cups are not a product of Ferguson’s genius, rather the money we have spent.
“No, I think it’s the money they were spending,” he said. “If you analyse the transfer record and the history, Rooney, or Ferdinand, for example, £30 million for a young player or a centre back. Every year they are very well-off. It’s not just because of the interviews or the press conferences; it’s because they had money.”
It won’t come as a surprise to you that this statement is as factual as his loony rant back in 2009. Benitez spent £301m on gross transfers over six years at Liverpool, recouping £144m. During the same period of time, Fergie spent £231m and recouped £178m.
Liverpool fans would argue that Benitez had to rebuild the squad, which explains why he spent more money, even if that does little to support Benitez’s claims that we were the club spending all the money. Still, if you look at the five years before Benitez got the Liverpool job, the spending is comparable.
Stats from AndersRed
Regardless, if Ferguson’s personality doesn’t come in to United’s success, if it’s just down to money, you would be under the impression that United have spent more than any other club, right? Wrong, obviously.
Stats from Transfer League
He’s cracking up, he’s cracking up, he’s cracking, Rafa’s cracking up!