English is such a versatile and comprehensive language that it always comes as something of a surprise when you encounter a concept that it cannot readily express. Just such a conundrum comes with the guilty pleasure of revelling in the misfortunes of others; perhaps all that stiff-upper-lippery and alleged English sense of ‘fair play’ frowned on such a weasellish concept and refused to acknowledge it by giving it a name.
Happily, our cousins over the water in Germany have no such scruples and thus it is that the eminently Teutonic word ‘schadenfreude‘ has gained much popular usage in recent times. ‘Googling’ Liverpool FC and ‘schadenfreude’ together brings up over 2,600 results, many of them earnest LFC forums discussing the demise of both Rafa Benitez and his (former) club, something that encourages me to believe that I am far from being alone in revelling in the apparently endless series of screw-ups perpetrated by Benitez and his former bosses since their last substantial success (the 2006 FA Cup win).
Routinely dismissed as ‘The Spanish Waiter’ by many United fans, Benitez started his tenure well but was increasingly mired in the awful politics of Liverpool FC in recent years. He also showed poor judgement in the transfer market – for every success (Torres, Benayoun) there were a whole series of failures (Voronin, Babel, Insua, Arbeloa, Aquilani, selling Alonso, buying then not playing Robbie Keane etc etc). Rafa spent shedloads of money in pursuit of that elusive 19th Championship but has taken the club backwards instead of forwards. Now, with Torres disgruntled and Gerrard having just turned 30, with no money to speak of for the new manager to spend and with the new Stanley Park stadium as far away as ever, the prospects for the Dippers remain bleak. And, it should be said, the Glazers look like a bunch of philanthropist sweeties compared to Gillett and Hicks.
So, all is not quite lost and it should be possible for United fans to bask in the discomfiture of Liverpool fans for some years to come. Rafa will be missed, if only because his talent for shooting himself in the foot was so spectacular. In common with many United fans, I was actually hoping that he would dig his heels in and stay, preferably holding out for the full £16 million compensation that was due to him.
Anyway, Fergie has seen off another would-be pretender to his unchallenged status as the most successful British manager of all time. There remains the small matter of 3 more European Cups and 1 more Premiership to put us up where we really belong, but we’ll get there eventually.
I read a comment somewhere on the www recently from a Leeds fan, who (surprisingly) cited Liverpool fans as the most unpleasant of all he had encountered, simply because they behave as though the whole Dalglish-Rush-Souness era happened only last year. They still have ludicrous expectations of what is a monumentally average team (particularly when – as is often the case – Torres is injured) and behave as though their club is still up there with the best. In all probability, only the expectations of Newcastle fans are more ludicrous still. Even so, I think a 7th place finish in the Premier League and a place in next season’s Johnstone’s Paint Europa League should have the effect of lowering expectations in Dipperland for the time being at least.
United fans will be interested to see who Liverpool line up to replace Rafa. Most of the top European coaches surely won’t touch the job with a ten-foot pole given the financial meltdown that will probably preclude anything but the most modest of summer purchases, not to mention the chaos at the top end of the club.
So, a British coach is likely – might I suggest a candidate? A hugely-experienced England defender with well over 80 caps and massive amounts of Champions League experience, a player now in the twilight of his playing career who could still do a decent Player/Coach job for a year or so, a man who knows what’s needed to win the Premier League and who already has a special bond with the Liverpool faithful. Step forward Gary Neville……