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Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Benitez lays into rival Ferguson

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez (left) with Man Utd's Sir Alex Ferguson
Benitez has responded to Ferguson's comments about the title race

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has launched a furious attack on Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

Benitez claims that Ferguson is "the only manager who will not be punished" for verbally attacking referees.

"We had a Respect campaign meeting and I said forget it, because Mr Ferguson is killing the referees," said Benitez.

Benitez was responding to Ferguson's midweek comment that nerves might ruin Liverpool's title bid, before issuing his tirade against the United boss.

Ferguson, who was given a two-game touchline ban and fined 10,000 in November for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean, had his pre-match news conference before Benitez's and was unable to immediately reply.

Benitez's extraordinary outburst came after a journalist asked Benitez for his response to Ferguson suggesting that Premier League leaders Liverpool might get nervous in the run-in.

All managers need to know is that only Mr Ferguson can talk about the fixtures, can talk about referees and nothing happens

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez
"I was surprised by what has been said, but maybe they (Manchester United) are nervous because we are at the top of the table," added Benitez.

The Spaniard then pulled out a sheet of paper and read out a list of accusations about Ferguson's conduct regarding referees, the FA's Respect campaign and fixture lists.

The Respect campaign is the FA's programme of activities to combat unacceptable behaviour in the game at every level, both on the pitch and from the sidelines, which began in August last year.

"I want to talk about facts," said Benitez. "I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start.

"During the Respect campaign - and this is a fact - Mr Ferguson was charged by the FA for improper conduct after comments made about Martin Atkinson and Keith Hackett.

"He was not punished. He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things.

"How can you talk about the Respect campaign and yet criticise the referee every single week?

"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.

"All managers need to know is that only Mr Ferguson can talk about the fixtures, can talk about referees - and nothing happens.

"We need to know that I am talking about facts, not my impression. There are things that everyone can see every single week.

"To complain and to always have an advantage is not fair."

Benitez also heavily criticised Ferguson's complaints over supposed favouritism over fixtures.

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

"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.

"At Christmas, United played on the 29th and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away against Newcastle two days after playing Bolton. They were playing about 40 hours later, but they were not complaining then.

"If he wants to talk about fixtures, and have a level playing field, there are two options if we don't want more problems with fixtures.

"One is the same as in Spain, the draw for the first part of the league is known, everyone knows which weekend. In the second half everyone plays the opposite, so you all know.

"Sky and Setanta have the right to choose their games and it will be the same for everyone. So Mr Ferguson will not be complaining about fixtures and a campaign against United.

"Or there is another option. That Mr Ferguson organises the fixtures in his office and sends it to us and everyone will know and cannot complain. That is simple."

Meanwhile, Benitez has also revealed his disappointment that negotiations over a new contract are progressing slowly.

"My agent has not yet received any documents, and he is a little disappointed," said the former Valencia boss.

"But OK, we will see what happens. I do not want to say too much at the moment."

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see also
Rafael Benitez statement
09 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Stoke v Liverpool
09 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Man Utd v Chelsea
08 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Ferguson given ban & fine by FA
18 Nov 08 |  Man Utd
Man Utd pair hit with FA charge
02 Apr 08 |  Man Utd

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