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Mar 10, 2013

Benitez rubbishes tiredness claim

Interim manager Rafa Benitez poured scorn on Sir Alex Ferguson's suggestion that Manchester United's tiredness accounted for Chelsea's comeback in their 2-2 FA Cup quarter-final draw at Old Trafford, and claimed his counterpart refused to shake hands.

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The Premier League leaders were 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney, but Benitez's side came back to earn a replay as substitute Eden Hazard and Ramires scored.

Ferguson, who downplayed the impact of Benitez's substitutions, felt his side were exhausted after their 2-1 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday.

But his Stamford Bridge counterpart pointed out that his side had played in Romania in the Europa League two days after that - and they had finished the stronger at Old Trafford.

"I thought you were joking," the Spaniard said when asked about Ferguson's comments. "They played on Tuesday, we played in Romania on Thursday. They were playing at home. They had everything in their favour."

Ferguson and Benitez have had a fractious relationship since the latter's time at Liverpool, and did not shake hands before the game. The Spaniard said he had waited in the tunnel for Ferguson, but that the United boss had walked straight past him.

"I was waiting," he explained. "I have some education. I know a lot of people are watching, so I know what you have to do."

The pair did not shake hands after the final whistle either, with Benitez saying: "I was celebrating with my players at the end."

He said he felt the double change that saw him bring on Hazard and John Obi Mikel for Frank Lampard and Victor Moses had changed the game.

Chelsea supporters had chanted: "You don't know what you're doing" when the substitutions were made, but Benitez argued that the club's busy fixture list made squad rotation necessary.

He said: "I'm a professional and we were going to Romania and I knew we had players who were a little bit tired and we had to manage them. We knew we had to make some substitutions and we did it. I cannot explain every single decision [to the fans]."

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