This weekend sees a massive clash between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield in which Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson will renew their fierce rivalry. After last seasons war on words in which Ferguson undoubtedly rattled Benitez, Rafa will be desperate to beat Man Utd on Sunday and ease some of the pressure mounting on him by re-igniting their season. I take a look at the two different styles of management that Ferguson and Benitez use and how the two teams will match up in the Premier League encounter.
There is no love lost between Ferguson and Benitez and last season has become renowned for the war of words between the Spaniard and the Scot in which neither manager pulled their punches. Ferguson was up to his usual mind-games by stating that nerves might ruin Liverpool’s title bid, which resulted in Benitez launching a scathing response. He claimed that Ferguson gets preferential treatment and is never punished by the FA for comments he makes towards referees. The Scot responded by calling Benitez arrogant and accused him of treating other managers with contempt. Ferguson is highly experienced in handling the media and came out on top as Man Utd won the league, and although Benitez insisted he wasn’t playing mind-games he was surely trying too and became another manager to get wound up by Ferguson. Here is Benitez reciting some “facts”:
Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson are undoubtedly both top managers, but they line their teams up differently, employ distinct tactics and each have a unique style of play. Benitez employs a 4-5-1 formation with Liverpool, playing two holding midfield players and a lone striker. They often sit deep and hit on the counter, which has proved successful for Torres during his time at the club. At the moment they seem to be short of a creative player, and their zonal marking at corners and set-pieces continues to draw criticism. Man Utd have lined up in the classic 4-4-2 formation this season and by moving Rooney into a central striking position he has taken on even greater importance. For a team who are renowned for their free-flowing style of play, they have arguably become slightly more defensive and physical, but remain hard to beat.
One aspect that separates Ferguson from his peers is his unrivalled man-management skills, from discipline to motivation. His Premier League experience is second to none and has helped him to develop and adapt his managerial style and approach over the years. Ferguson knows how to deal with each of his players differently and has managed to tone down some of his aggression that led to the exits of David Beckham and Jaap Stam. In contrast to Ferguson, Benitez has a habit of freezing certain players out of the team and his man-management skills have been questioned. He treats every one of his players in the same way and this has resulted in him being accused of not showing a personal touch with the players. Benitez also comes across as being very meticulous in his match preparation, looking at every minor detail and leaving no stone unturned.
Liverpool and Man Utd enter the game at the weekend in vastly contrasting form, with Man Utd sitting at the top of the table and Liverpool languishing down in eighth. Following their defeat at home to Lyon, Liverpool have now lost their last 4 games in all competitions and can ill afford to continue that terrible run. Man Utd on the other hand have won 6 of their last 7 Premier League games and will go into the match full of confidence against a Liverpool side that cannot buy a win. If Liverpool are without key players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres then their task on Sunday will be even tougher against a strong Man Utd team.
So who will come out on top at Anfield on Sunday? Can Liverpool afford to lose or even not win? Could the contest be Rafa Benitez and Sir Alex Ferguson’s last Premier League meeting? And most importantly, will the Man Utd fans manage to smuggle any Liverpool beach balls into the ground?
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