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Benitez launches incredible attack on Fergie

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has launched an astonishing attack on his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

•  RAFA'S RAGE: Read the full transcript here

The Spaniard claimed United boss Ferguson is ''the only manager who will not be punished'' for outspoken attacks on referees at a press conference ahead of Liverpool's trip to Stoke this weekend.

Benitez claimed: ''We had a meeting in Manchester with managers and the Football Association about the respect campaign.

''And I was very clear, forget the campaign because Mr Ferguson was killing the referees, killing Mr (Martin) Atkinson, killing Mr (Keith) Hackett.

''How can you talk about the respect campaign and criticise the referee every single week?''

Benitez is clearly irked by the lenient way he sees Ferguson treated by the FA, and was especially angry about Ferguson's observations about the Premier League fixture programme.

''Two years ago we were playing a lot of early kick-offs away on Saturdays when United were playing on Sundays. And we didn't say anything,'' he said.

"Now he is complaining about everything, that everybody is against United. But the second half of the season will see them playing at home against all the teams at the top of the table, it is a fantastic advantage.

''There is another option,'' he added. ''That Mr Ferguson organises the fixtures in his office and sends it to us and everyone will know and cannot complain. That is simple.''

Benitez also feels that Ferguson's suggestion that Liverpool can not handle the pressure at the top of the table is only an example of the Scot's infamous psychological tricks.

"I was surprised but I have to talk about facts," he added. "I think that is important. I think they (United) are nervous because we are at the top of the table.

"I want to be clear. I don't want to play mind games too early and I think that they want to start."

Benitez finished off by criticising the conduct of United officials when Liverpool play matches at Old Trafford.

He added: ''We know what happens every time we go to Old Trafford and the United staff. They are always going man-to-man with the referees, especially at half-time when they walk close to the referees and they are talking and talking...''

Later, Benitez expressed his disappointment with the slow progress in his new contract negotiations with the Anfield club.

The Liverpool boss opened talks with owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett back in November and spoke of his desire for a quick conclusion, making it clear he is not happy with the situation.

Benitez said: ''My agent has not yet received any documents, and he is a little disappointed. But okay, we will see what happens. But I do not want to say too much at the moment.''

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