Rafael Benitez lashes out at fans
Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez on Wednesday effectively signaled the end of his troubled reign after launching an extraordinary post-match outburst at both the club and his detractors.
The Spaniard watched his side win 2-0 at Middlesbrough to book an FA Cup quarterfinal trip to Manchester United, and then confirmed that he would be leaving Stamford Bridge at the end of the season regardless of how the campaign ends.
"I will leave at the end of the season -- they don't need to waste time with me," said Benitez, referring to a section of fans who jeered him at Riverside Stadium.
Benitez was hired as the replacement for the fired Roberto di Matteo, and never has been accepted by a large section of Chelsea fans.
Many are still angry at Di Matteo's departure after he led the club to its first Champions League title last season. Others haven't forgiven Benitez for allegedly disparaging comments he made toward Chelsea earlier in his career while he managed Liverpool. Others don't like his style of soccer.
Benitez said some fans have had an "agenda" against him and made a passionate defense of his managerial record.
"I have been in charge in football for 26 years -- I have won the Champions League, won the FIFA Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies, all the trophies you can win at club level," he said. "A group of fans, they are not doing any favors for the team when they are singing and wasting time preparing banners. It's because someone made a mistake. They put my title (as) 'interim manager.'
Asked if he had known that the club would give him the "interim" title when he accepted the job, Benitez said: "Everybody is interim because after you, there is another one. But in this case, they didn't have anyone, so why put 'interim'?
"It's just to say to everyone, 'Because he was in Liverpool and just in case, we will put interim and then we will wash our hands.'
"Why do you need to do that? The manager is the manager -- one month, three months, seven months, he's the manager.
Asked further if he believed giving him the interim title was a mistake from the start, he replied: "Yes, 100 percent."
Ahead of the game, Benitez played down reports of a confrontation with players at a training session after Sunday's 2-0 loss at Manchester City. John Terry, dropped for the City match, was reported by British media to have been involved.
"I am the manager and I will be managing the team I like to manage -- players and no names," Benitez said Wednesday. "I have proved in these three months that I want to win every single game ... If a group of fans continue their agenda ... they are not making any favors for the team.
"They should concentrate on supporting the team," he continued. "They put pressure on the players and don't create a good atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. They have to realize they rare making a big mistake. ... it would be much better to have a good atmosphere."
Benitez's tirade completely overshadowed the game, which his much-changed side, led by Terry, eventually won after a difficult first half.
Benitez made no fewer than eight changes Wednesday to the side that lost 2-0 at Manchester City at the weekend, with only keeper Petr Cech, defender Branislav Ivanovic and midfielder Ramires surviving, and that meant a return for Terry and a first senior start for 18-year-old Dutchman Nathan Ake.
Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.