Talk of Mindgames must stop

24 03 2009

\"These aren\'t the points you\'re looking for\"So both Man United and Chelsea slipped up this weekend. The former lost two games on the bounce for the first time since 2005, after a 2-0 loss to Fulham, a game which saw Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney sent off.

The Blues meanwhile had their good recent run ended up a sole Luka Modric goal (a player finally begining to live up to his promise) meaning that Liverpool now have a chance to cut Man United’s lead to a solitary point – though United still have a game in hand.

What’s been cited as the main reason for this? Rafa Benitez’s mind games. Which to be honest, is silly.

See recently, Rafa has strayed into what is traditionally Sir Alex Ferguson’s territory, complaining that other teams get advantages with the ref, making remarks about the FA, complaining to anyone who will listen (ie The British Press) about everything and anything.

Now Man United have lost two games in the Prem on the bounce! And they’ve had three players sent off! It must be the mind games!

I don’t buy it.

I never bought the whole Alex-Ferguson-as-Derren-Brown thing myself either. It stems back to Kevin Keegan’s epic meltdown in 1996, which looking back, was certainly not the reason United won the title that year. The title had already basically been won, and spectacular meltdown though it was, there is something in Keegan that just does that.

Then came Arsene Wenger. Wenger’s a funny one. Sometimes he seems the most intellegent man in Football, others he’s striking out other managers. Anyway, he won enough things to suggest that frankly, people only pay attention to the supposed “mindgames” when United win.

When Jose Mourinho came along he did seem a brash challenge to Fergie, and indeed Sir Alex’s record against the Portuguese is rubbish. But that’s probably just a tactical thing – Fergie’s teams struggle to play against ten-men-behind-the-ball types.

Its the same with Rafa. United are just going through the inevitable bad patch. They lost today because of Paul Scholes silly handball/red card/pen. If United had won, no-one would mention Rafa’s supposed Jedi powers.

Do we really think the United players were thinking “Shit, Rafa’s right!” or indeed, contemptful as many are against ref’s, how many of us are cynical enough to think that United’s three red cards are somehow related to Rafa complaining United never get them? Not me.

At the end of the day, people like the “mindgames” element because it seems to add an extra layer of intrigue to title races, and big four matches. In solo sports mentality is a big issue. If a tennis player begins to think he’ll loose, he likely will, that’s part of the sports appeal. Team games are surely more complex though.

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