Ferguson swipe at 'lucky' Benitez
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has wasted no time in reigniting his long-running feud with Rafael Benitez by branding the new Chelsea boss "lucky" for having the chance to become a two-time world champion.
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The Manchester United manager had a fractious relationship with Benitez during the Spaniard's time at Liverpool.
They fell out over Ferguson's refusal to sell Gabriel Heinze to the Anfield outfit, and even more spectacularly in 2009, when the Scot suggested Liverpool would be affected by nerves during the Premier League title run-in.
Benitez's astonishing response was to deliver a series of "facts", backing up his belief that Ferguson benefited from more favourable treatment from the Football Association in his dealings with match officials.
As it turned out, United did win the title and within 12 months, Benitez had gone.
He soon succeeded Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan but Benitez did not last long there either, even though he won the Italian Super Cup and the Club World Cup in his short San Siro stint.
Not that Ferguson evidently holds much store by those achievements.
"Benitez has been trying to get a job for a long time and he is very lucky because on his CV in two weeks' time he could have two world club titles to his name - and had nothing to do with the teams," said the United boss.
"Jose Mourinho won the treble at Inter; Rafa took over and they won the world title without having to do anything.
"He had nothing to do with the construction of the team."
Yet Ferguson acknowledges such good fortune could actually aid United this weekend as Benitez's first match in charge of the Stamford Bridge outfit is at home to presently unbeaten league leaders Manchester City on Sunday.
"I hope he is lucky on Sunday too," said Ferguson.
"It happens time and time again when a new manager comes in that a team win their first few games.
"It is strange how it happens and sometimes you wonder if it encourages chairmen at football clubs to make changes because they think 'if we get a new manager we'll win the next two or three games'."
There is a mutual dislike between the two men which make the next few months fascinating, even if United are not due to meet Chelsea again until the beginning of May.
And it somewhat overshadows Ferguson's sorrow for Roberto Di Matteo, who has become the latest manager to be uprooted by demanding owner Roman Abramovich, even though he delivered on the demand for the Champions League trophy in May.
"Everyone feels for Roberto Di Matteo," said Ferguson.
"It is quite amazing when you consider he has won the FA Cup and Champions League.
"The biggest disappointment for me is in two weeks' time they are going to play in the Club World Cup. You would have thought they would have waited two weeks to give the guy a chance to win a world title.
"That's why I really feel disappointment for Roberto - he could have an FA Cup, Champions League and Club World Cup on his CV. It's a pity for him."
Despite the changes at Chelsea, and their recent poor form, Ferguson is not ruling them out of the title race.
With United losing at Norwich last weekend, if the Blues beat City on Sunday, they will be a minimum of three points off the top, and well within striking distance.
"A few weeks ago we were certainly thinking it looked like a three-horse race and I don't think that is out of the question because there are only a few points between the three teams anyway," he said.
"Chelsea have got a big squad of players.
"They have a lot of experience and have brought in a couple of young players - Oscar and (Eden) Hazard - so there is no way you can possibly dismiss Chelsea."