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May 9, 2013

Rafa's wishes retiring rival Sir Alex well

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez put his frosty history with Sir Alex Ferguson to one side as he wished the outgoing Manchester United boss a happy retirement.

• Fergie's potential successors Photo Gallery
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The two managers have never seen eye to eye, with the most famous flare up of the pair's rivalry coming with Benitez's infamous 'facts' press conference in January 2009, when the then-Liverpool boss lambasted Ferguson's treatment of referees.

United beat Liverpool to the title that season, much to the Spaniard's indignation, and the managers' war of words has regularly been reopened since.

However, Benitez - whose Chelsea side have knocked the Premier League champions out of the FA Cup and beaten them in the league in the past six weeks - insists he will miss the opportunity to test himself against Ferguson, and also played down the extent of their antagonism towards each other.

"I like to challenge and to compete against him, but now that he's retired I wish him health and hopefully he can enjoy his retirement," Benitez told Sky Sports.

"I think he will enjoy football in a different way and hopefully I can be involved in football, so I will be quite busy. I don't have any problem to [talk with him] after football, to have conversations with him."

With David Moyes the favourite to replace Ferguson at Old Trafford, the Everton job could be up for grabs this summer and Benitez, who is leaving Chelsea at the end of the season, was asked if he would consider taking the reins at Liverpool's city rivals.

The Spaniard, who still has his family home on the Wirral, was coy in his response. "Still I have to concentrate on [Chelsea's next match at] Aston Villa," he said.

Meanwhile, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas paid tribute to Ferguson's team-building ability, telling Sky Sports: "The world of football will miss this great example of a manager, for his charisma, his passion and the teams he has built, as successful as they were."

"The amount of times that he had to reinvent a team to be successful shows the quality of the manager, but what stands out is his human values and his passion for the game and the example that he has managed to set out without one single mistake for the seasons that he was in charge.

"It's a great pity to see him leave, but the legacy he leaves speaks for itself."

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