Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Rafael Benitez’s complaints over the Premier League fixture scheduling and has claimed that clubs like Manchester United (and by extension, the other 3 big clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool) are being punished by their own success.
After the midweek Euro 2008 qualifiers Benitez lashed out at football authorities for giving clubs very little time to prepare for weekend games, making it easier for ‘normal’ teams to beat them and thus costing the top clubs a chance to extend their domination over the league.
“I do think the successful teams are punished.
The top teams are always going to be televised at a time that suits the public demand. Sky and Setanta are always going to pick the successful teams for the prime-time games, you can’t blame them for that given the amount of money they have put it.
Money is important to every club now, so they do a deal. But once you shake hands with the devil, you have to accept they are in control.”
Saying that Manchester United and Liverpool are being ‘punished’ is going too far (your mileage may vary depending on your interpretation), but it’s true that something has to be done to lessen the burden of international fixtures on the domestic leagues as well as giving the national teams more time together as several managers have suggested (or complained about, is football managers are prone to doing).
It will take a concentrated effort from top managers – not just from Manchester United and Liverpool but other top clubs in Europe as well as national team managers – as well as a collaborative move from national footballing associations to lobby for a solution that benefits both club football and international football.
Of course, the context to this story is far more interesting – Rafa Benitez is on a crusade this season, building a siege mentality at Liverpool in order to bring them to perform consistently at the level required to win the Premier League. He’s taken on the FA and Manchester United already and there is a little whiff of paranoia about his actions – although to be fair it’s this spirit that has revolutionised Liverpool.
As for Manchester United? Ferguson’s always there to remind us that while the ‘new’ guys have ‘just’ discovered their problems, Manchester United have been under the cosh for a lot longer. Good ol Fergie, eh?
There have been proposals to give two month-long breaks during each season for leagues to play all their internationals – presumably that would also include qualifiers and friendlies.
What do you guys think? Is this a good idea / is it workable?
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