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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson: Top teams punished for success

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez's complaints over the Premier League fixture scheduling and claimed clubs like his own are being punished for their success.

Benitez is fuming at the number of Saturday lunchtime away games Liverpool find themselves involved in immediately after international breaks and Champions League weeks.

Manchester United often find themselves in the same situation and head to Everton tomorrow for a noon start at Goodison Park.

Although on this occasion the kick-off time has been determined by Merseyside Police rather than the TV companies, Ferguson does believe there is an issue to be addressed.

And the Red Devils chief is laying the blame squarely at the Premier League's door.

'Rafa is quite right to complain,' said Ferguson.

'If there is an unfairness against teams, it should be addressed but I don't know if the authorities would listen.

'Over the last five years, we have had more lunchtime kick-offs than anyone and you would think that deserves some kind of attention.

'The Premier League are to blame. I accept, given when the fixture lists come out, it is just unfortunate if you find yourself away from home after a European tie but Rafa is talking about the lunchtime kick-offs.'

Ferguson does accept pleasing every interested party is an impossible job for anyone.

And, in accepting an enormous £1.7billion cheque from Sky and Setanta for the domestic TV rights, the United manager also acknowledges the Premier League has given up any realistic control over kick-off times.

But he feels there are elements of unfairness about the way the Premier League handle certain situations, citing the differing examples of his own club and major title rivals Chelsea last year.

'Chelsea had a Sunday game against Tottenham and the Premier League changed it at their behest because they had a European tie the following Tuesday,' he said.

'That decision gave Chelsea three days to prepare, which is fine, except Tottenham had played their own European game on the previous Thursday, which left them with one-and-a-half days to prepare.

'There was no fairness there whatsoever.

'Then, when we asked for a Saturday lunchtime fixture at Manchester City to be changed because we had a Champions League semi-final the previous Wednesday, the Premier League said no, even though City had not played at all. That was wonderful.'

Ferguson continued: 'I do think the successful teams are punished.

'The top teams are always going to be televised at a time that suits the public demand. Sky and Setanta are always going to pick the successful teams for the prime-time games, you can't blame them for that given the amount of money they have put it.

'Money is important to every club now, so they do a deal. But once you shake hands with the devil, you have to accept they are in control.'