Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez loves to quote FACTS just as he did in that infamous rant back in January.
These opinions may eventually leave me open to ridicule because I have been around football long enough to know that it’s not over until it’s over and the Premiership may yet end up at Anfield on the 24th of May.
You cannot argue against facts however and the following ones are absolutely indisputable.
The first FACT is that this was THE season in which Liverpool had the best ever chance of snatching the title away from Old Trafford. Why?
FACT: United had to play ALL their major challengers and rivals AWAY from home before Christmas. Liverpool 13th September, Chelsea 21st September, Arsenal 8th November, Aston Villa 22nd November and Manchester City 30th November and Tottenham Hotspur 13th December. They cannot come more difficult than that, lesser teams could have easily been completely out of the title race well before Christmas especially when you consider these additional hurdles.
FACT: Falling a game behind in the Premiership because of the Super Cup Final thus adding additional pressure.
FACT: Being involved in the 6 match group phase in the Champions League.
FACT: Flying half way round the world for the FIFA World Club Championship committments putting United further behind in the Premiership and adding to their already high pressure season.
FACT: By the end of the year Liverpool were topping the table by 7 points but had crucially played two more games than United.
Despite the heavy schedule that had to be endured, United had ONLY dropped one more point than Liverpool before entering the New Year.
August to the end of December must have surely been the period when Ferguson manouvered his team through the fixture maze in order to set the foundation for his title challenge.
Liverpool unexpectedly started to lose ground with a number of squandered points in the January – February period while United went on a run of successive victories. This proved to be decisive in the latter part of the season and could cost Benitez the title he so badly wants. He appeared hesitant to let his side loose, opting for caution instead.
While the Reds came back with a bang in March with some scintillating performances in Europe and a 4-1 thumping of the champions at Old Trafford to open up the title race, United appears to have settled the ship and looks well on the way to clinching their third successive title thus equalling Liverpool’s proud record of 18 titles.
Unless there are some late twists and turns – which can never be discounted, Liverpool and Rafa Benitez will be left to rue a golden opporunity to take the Premiership away from Old Trafford, an opportunity which for all the annual “We will do it next year” bravado coming out of Anfield may not present itself again for many more years.