Friday, January 9, 2009

Uh, oh ...

Really, was right now the best time for Rafa to go after Sir Alex Jintao like a cornered badger?

Read that Guardian report, with all its journalistic additions, and then check out the transcript of his press conference from the official team site (scroll down a bit, just like you always do on Match Pricks).

To me, the comments in the transcript on the team site are much more inflammatory than the ones included in the Guardian piece. But the Guardian story, like all the other English papers on this, adds commentary comparing Rafa to Kevin Keegan's infamous, "I would love it ..." meltdown in '96. They even have a supplemental blog post asking if this was Rafa's "Keegan moment."

Hardly. I will say I disagree with Rafa's thinking that now is the time to lash out at Fergie. Obviously, the way this is going to play out in the media is going to please that little Scottish Jintao to no end. But I just don't see this as Rafa losing his cool. This is not a man given to capricious outbursts and unhinged displays. He likely keeps running notes about the quality and hunger-satisfying effectiveness of his daily breakfast.

The only similarity is that Keegan and Rafa were both sticking up for their teams. Keegan did it without thinking and in a completely ludicrous fashion. Rafa is saying what the Guardian and countless others have been pointing out for years: Fergie gets away with murder in his criticism of the referees.

But the king-bull ache of the English football media is to have this season come down to Liverpool and United, all the way to the final week. This hyping of Rafa's defense of his team's chances is just stoking the fire that will grow stronger the longer Liverpool and United are at the top this season. Look at all the "Scolari is a failure" stories. The media is bored with Chelsea. There's no juice there. This season, for hype purposes, is about Liverpool desperately chasing its first title in 19 years, all the while United keeps pace with them in hopes of equaling the Reds' English record of 18 domestic league titles.

Still, Rafa, baby, you're not exactly lowering the pressure here, kiddo. Hopefully, Carra instills his mental fortitude on his teammates and the locker room doesn't fall under the hype machine.

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