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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Arsene Wenger's hidden gem

Arsenal
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Fergie accuses Rafa of arrogance and contempt

The war of words between Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez was ratcheted up another notch on Friday with the Manchester United manager accusing his Liverpool counterpart of ''arrogance'' and showing ''contempt'' in his dealings with fellow Premier League managers.

Ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Everton, Ferguson hit back at Benitez's recent spate of verbal volleys giving his own forthright assessment of the Spaniard's conduct.

Ferguson began by taking Benitez to task over his description of Everton as a ''small club'', before rounding on him for the attitude he showed in dismissing Blackburn Rovers last weekend once Liverpool had scored their second goal at Anfield.

''Everton are a big club, not a small one which Benitez arrogantly said,'' said Ferguson. ''But arrogance is one thing. You cannot forgive contempt, which is what he showed Sam Allardyce last weekend.

The incident in question came after Fernando Torres scored his second goal in what ended as a 4-0 win for Liverpool.

While celebrating Torres' goal, television pictures captured Benitez's smile, shrug and cross his arms over which appeared to suggest he felt the game was won, despite the goal being scored in the 33-minute.

On Friday Allardyce said: ''I was hugely disappointed by those gestures. I think they were disrespectful and quite humiliating''.

Ferguson added: ''When Liverpool scored their second goal he signalled as if the game was finished. I do not think Sam deserved that. Sam has worked so hard for the [League Managers' Association] and he's had a weakened team. I just thought it showed contempt.

''In my experience no Liverpool manager has ever done that. It was beyond the pale.''

Ferguson's comments will add further intrigue to an already exciting title run-in which will resume next week when Liverpool play Arsenal on Tuesday and United face Portsmouth the following day.

Tensions between the two fierce rivals were stepped up by Benitez who launched a remarkable tirade against Ferguson in January, infamously citing "facts'' which he claimed was proof that the fixture calendar favoured United.

Ferguson subsequently refuted the accusations which have since been dubbed as "Rafa's Rant''.

While most observers initially felt the Liverpool boss was attempting to begin a psychological battle in order to gain an advantage over Ferguson, subsequent comments from both managers suggest the animosity between the two is genuine.

If United win the Premier League this season they will equal Liverpool's record 18 titles, but if Benitez's side manage to pip Ferguson's men they will extend their record and win their first title since 1989-90.

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