Liverpool have had plenty of fiery managers over the decades and Rafa Benitez was no different. The Spaniard rocked up at Anfield in 2004 and repeatedly clashed with other managers until his departure – one FA Cup and one Champions League later – in 2010.
But one manager got under Benitez's skin more than any other – Sir Alex Ferguson. The pair shared a fierce rivalry towards the end of the noughties, as Manchester United and Liverpool went hammer and tongs for the title each season. This led to one of the greatest press conference rants in Premier League history – now forever known as the "Facts" rant.
The Reds were top of the table in January 2009 when Benitez used his weekly meeting with the media to criticise Ferguson and suggest Manchester United were nervous about the title race.
"I was surprised by what has been said [by Ferguson in an earlier press conference], but maybe they are nervous because we are at the top of the table," Benitez began, before taking a sheet of paper with typed bullet points out of his pocket. "But I want to talk about facts. 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..."
The speech, which lasted around four minutes, listed a series of supposed infringements Ferguson had made, from abusing referees to fiddling fixtures. Throughout the diatribe, Benitez punctuated each point with the word "FACT!" and it instantly went down in Premier League folklore.
For Fabio Aurelio and the rest of the Liverpool squad watching on TV at home, the speech felt like a watershed moment in the title race.
"Yes, we players spoke about the rant at training afterwards; it was quite funny," said the Brazilian, speaking exclusively as part of FourFourTwo's Players Lounge series – you can order the latest mag here. "We were not expecting that speech and Rafa definitely knew what he was doing. It was funny to see how many times he used the word 'fact'.
"The media made fun of Benitez, but that was a turning point for us. Somehow it gave us a further boost for the following games. And we improved our football from that moment onwards. That's another fact!"
Sadly for the Reds players, another fact is that Manchester United also turned a corner. Benitez may have won the battle with words, but Ferguson won the war as United pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title by four points. It was clear the former Old Trafford boss got a lot of pleasure out of beating his rival. Years later, during an MSNBC interview, Fergie twisted the knife.
"I always made sure I came out the winner in a press conference, that was really important," explained the 13-time Premier League winning boss. "And from time to time - like with Rafa when he had the sheet of paper with all his objections to myself and the club - it killed him because I didn't need to say anything after that. I said 'well, he must be troubled'."
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