NUMBER ONE: When it came to playing tricks, Fergie was king. Photo AFP.
By Paul Kennedy
Jose Mourinho used to do it. Rafa Benitez tried to, but wasn’t very good at it. And Pep Guardiola is giving it a go right about now.
But if the truth be known, the undisputed King of the Mindgames has to be the one and only Sir Alex Ferguson.
When he was in charge at United, his off-the-cuff comments were anything but off-the-cuff. Meticulously thought out expressions dropped into interviews and press conferences with the one simple aim, to rattle the hell out of the opposition.
And boy could he rattle.
Kevin Keegan famously lost his rag on television after a particular back and forth with Sir Alex, and who can forget Benitez’s famous ‘fact’ rant at his United rival?
Guess what? The art of mindgaming hasn’t gone away. In fact over the weekend, it got more ferocious than ever.
Gary Neville led the way, claiming Liverpool have all but won the Premier League after they won and Manchester City lost over the weekend.
Wayne Rooney also jumped on the bandwagon, gifting the prize to Jurgen Klopp’s team.
But let’s be honest here, Neville and Rooney would rather pull out their own teeth than see Liverpool win the league.
Sure, they may well be in the driving seat, but there’s one crucial point everyone is missing – IT IS ONLY OCTOBER!
I think Neville, Rooney et al are just piling on the pressure in the hope Liverpool slip up. Facebook and other social media sites are the same.
In this modern age we live in, everyone is a pundit, everyone an expert, and everyone has an opinion they want to share whether you like it or not.
Liverpool are eight points clear (granted, after a 94th minute stroke of good fortune against Leicester on Saturday) but there is still a long way to go and a lot of football to play.
Liverpool are still to face Manchester City, home and away, and after the international break they play Manchester United, at Old Trafford.
On paper it should be men against pre-school toddlers, but despite United’s atrocious start to the season so far, the players and fans will be looking to dent Liverpool’s chances.
But once again I’ll say this, there is still a long way to go, and Liverpool do have a habit of giving up leads late on in the season.
Isn’t that right Steven Gerrard?
And without sounding like some bloke from Game of Thrones, winter is coming. And with it means a packed fixture list and for Liverpool, the World Club Cup Competition in the Middle East.
No one wins the Premier League at Christmas, and no one certainly wins it in October.
Liverpool have had a good start, but that’s all.
There are still 30 games left to play, that’s 90 points up for grabs, and both City and Liverpool have to play each other, twice.
So to your so-called experts, and I’m talking about those paid to talk on TV as well as keyboard warriors still living with their parents and sat in their bedrooms with nothing better to do, I say this: “Give it a rest.”
Regular readers of this column will know full well I would be singing from the roof tops if Liverpool were to win the prize that has evaded them for so long.
But I’m not booking my tattoo just yet. That will only happen if, and when, Liverpool top the league with more points than the team below and with no matches left to play.
Until then, I’m just enjoying the rollercoaster ride that is the English Premier League. VNS