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Jan 23, 2013

Benitez reignites Ferguson feud

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has launched a fresh attack on Sir Alex Ferguson, telling The Times that "maybe now a lot of people are seeing" the behaviour that led the Spaniard to highlight 'facts' during his time with Liverpool.

Benitez has long endured a frosty relationship with Ferguson, with the Manchester United manager claiming in 2010 that his club's rivalry with Liverpool escalated to unprecedented levels under the Spaniard's regime.

The most memorable incident between the pair came in January 2009, when Benitez, whose Liverpool side were vying with United for the title, announced at a press conference that he wanted "to talk about facts", speaking out about Ferguson's criticism of referees and adding: "He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things."

Ferguson's treatment of officials has been back in the spotlight in recent days after he fumed at assistant referee Simon Beck for his failure to award United a penalty during the 1-1 draw with Tottenham, claiming the Red Devils have "history with him".

The FA has asked Ferguson, who escaped punishment for his on-field debate with Mike Dean during the Boxing Day clash with Newcastle, to explain his remarks, and Benitez feels others are now starting to understand his perspective.

"I always try to concentrate on my job, but at that time with Ferguson I was defending my club," Benitez said in an interview with The Times. "I could see what was happening from my point of view, and maybe now a lot of people are seeing the same things. I will not talk too much about that because it's obvious.

"It's a question for the FA what they do about it. What I said at that time was what I thought, and what I'm seeing now is similar. It depends on the FA. I don't know what they will do - it depends on them."

For now, though, Benitez insists he is still just trying to "concentrate on [his] job".

There has been much speculation about how long he will remain at Stamford Bridge. His relationship with the Chelsea fans has been hostile from the outset, and owner Roman Abramovich is believed to have appointed Benitez only to keep the seat warm for Pep Guardiola.

With Guardiola having taken the decision to join Bayern Munich, though, it would appear Benitez may yet be a contender to earn the job on a permanent basis.

"A lot of doors can be opened, but the main one is this one here," he said. "I don't want to enter this debate at the moment, as the priority for me is to do really well and to win trophies for this club. But afterwards we will see, and you never know."

The 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Sunday appears to have boosted his cause.

"Roman saw the game on Sunday and was really pleased with the team, especially during the first half," he added. "He said that we played good football, attractive football, with passing and commitment. Everyone knows that we can only change the fans' minds by winning games."

There have also been links with Real Madrid, with the Spanish champions' fans appearing to be view his appointment favourably.

"Staying in the Premier League is my priority, but I am a professional and may have to consider other options when thinking about the future," Benitez said. "I'm focused on winning here at the moment.

"I had different offers in different countries, but the priority for me was coming back to the Premier League and to a club that can challenge for trophies. Chelsea is an ideal club because we can still win trophies."

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