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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson gives his backing for rival Rafa

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken in defence of his Liverpool counterpart Rafael Benitez by suggesting the Anfield club's owners have undermined him.

Benitez's position has been the subject of continual speculation in the past two months amid reports his relationship with American co-chairmen George Gillett and Tom Hicks has broken down.

The problems heightened last week when Hicks admitted he had spoken to former Germany manager Jurgen Klinsmann as an 'insurance policy' should Benitez leave the club.

Speaking from Saudi Arabia where United are on a short winter tour, Ferguson said: 'At big clubs, it's absolutely paramount that the board show their class.

'Arsene Wenger has had great support at Arsenal and I've had great support, too, ever since I came here. So there's a certain type of unity there.

'What happened with [Klinsmann] was a bad piece of business on Liverpool's part, there's no doubt about that. That sort of thing can be very upsetting for a manager. You should allow a manager to get on with his job.'

League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan yesterday revealed his organisation had offered 'advice, support and encouragement ' to Benitez.

Gillett and Hicks have also angered supporters with their treatment of the Spaniard but the Americans themselves have also been the subject of rumours with the investment arm of the Dubai government thought to be interested in buying their stake.

The club's immediate future could become clearer this week with Gillett and Hicks poised to announce £350million re-financing of the funds they used to buy the club. That would allow the pair, who have insisted they intend to remain in charge, to press ahead with plans for a new stadium.