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Ferguson hits back in Benitez row

Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez
Ferguson and Benitez have traditionally had a cordial relationship

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has branded Rafael Benitez's recent comments as "ridiculous".

Liverpool's boss claimed Ferguson goes unpunished for criticising referees and even suggested United are a "bit scared" of the Premier League leaders.

"There was a lot of venom in what he has said," responded Ferguson. "I don't understand where it has come from.

"When he reflects on it he must realise what he is saying is ridiculous. He is obviously disturbed about something."

Ferguson refused to discuss Benitez's comments in too much detail, preferring instead to bask in his side's 3-0 win over Chelsea.

Following Sunday's impressive win at Old Trafford, third-placed United have closed the gap on Liverpool to five points, with two games in hand.

Benitez launched his attack on Ferguson during an extraordinary four-minute monologue in a news conference on Friday and also said he believed the Scot was nervous because Liverpool are top of the league.

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

He added that Ferguson is "the only manager who will not be punished" for verbally attacking referees and also claimed that Ferguson and his United support staff intimidate match officials.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty
An unrepentant Benitez launched a fresh attack on Ferguson following Liverpool's 0-0 draw at Stoke on Saturday, suggesting the United boss may be "a little bit scared" of the Merseyside club's title challenge.

"In 20 years, nobody could say these things but maybe they think the same as me," stated Benitez. "I don't regret it."

His actions, seemingly triggered by Ferguson's assertion that nerves may affect Liverpool's title challenge, have provoked huge debate, while the Football Association is set to review Benitez's comments before deciding whether to take any action against him.

But the Liverpool manager claims he has received plenty of support.

"I can guarantee a lot of people have sent a lot of messages, not to me but to our staff and a lot of people in Liverpool," he revealed.

"It is one person saying what everyone wants to say but I was not thinking about what people think, I was thinking about my club and Mr Ferguson's comments on Liverpool this season. You can understand why."

When asked if he thought Ferguson was nervous, Benitez replied: "Clearly. Maybe he is a little bit scared.

"He is talking too much about Liverpool. He has to think about his own team, the problems they have and all the things they are doing."

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see also
Man Utd 3-0 Chelsea
11 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Stoke 0-0 Liverpool
10 Jan 09 |  Premier League
FA to review Benitez complaints
10 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Benitez lays into rival Ferguson
09 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Rafael Benitez statement
09 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Ferguson given ban & fine by FA
18 Nov 08 |  Man Utd

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