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Ferguson stokes up Benitez rift

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson's side lead Liverpool by a point with a game in hand

Sir Alex Ferguson has cranked up his war of words with Rafael Benitez.

The Scot voiced surprise that his Spanish rival took aim at him while preparing for Liverpool's Champions League clash with Chelsea in midweek.

Benitez claimed Ferguson was "maybe a little bit scared" of Liverpool, who lie second behind United in the table.

But Ferguson responded: "He's got a European tie (against Chelsea) and he's talking about Alex Ferguson. Fantastic! I didn't know I was that important!"

Speaking ahead of Saturday's league trip to Sunderland, Ferguson smiled when asked whether he had "got under Benitez's skin".

"I have no more comment to make," he said.

United are a point ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League title race and have a game in hand.

Chelsea will be very buoyed up now. That is what happens when you get a really important result

Sir Alex Ferguson

But Ferguson has warned against discounting Chelsea, who caused a massive surprise by beating Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie.

"Chelsea will be absolutely buoyed up now," said the United boss. "You saw the celebrations at the end. They knew it was an emphatic result and they will be flying at the moment."

Ferguson likened Chelsea's thumping win to Manchester United's FA Cup semi-final replay triumph over Arsenal in 1999 for the impact it might have.

"You can never forget Ryan Giggs' goal at Villa Park in the year we won the treble in 1999," he said. "That just lifted everyone. From then on we were unbeatable."

But Ferguson said he was perfectly happy for the battle to go down to the last day - as it did a year ago.

"That would do me fine," he said. "We are used to that. I am certainly not thinking about the game in hand because it can create a false situation.

"Yes, it is an opportunity when the game eventually arises but, at the moment, we are a point ahead and we have to concentrate on that."

606: DEBATE

Ferguson and Benitez have been verbally sparring since January when Benitez spoke out about Ferguson's treatment of referees.

Ferguson insisted there was nothing wrong in managers talking about rival clubs.

"If you ask me a question about other teams, I give you an opinion," he said. "Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was talking about Manchester United a couple of weeks ago.

"He was asked a question and I had to dampen down what he said - that United were the new untouchables - because I knew all the dangers of it.

"But it was a fair answer at the time, given the way people looked at our club a few weeks ago."



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see also
Sunderland v Man Utd
09 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Liverpool 1-3 Chelsea
08 Apr 09 |  Europe
Benitez reignites Ferguson rift
07 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Pressure is on Man Utd - Benitez
04 Apr 09 |  Premier League
FA to review Benitez complaints
10 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Rafael Benitez statement
09 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Benitez lays into rival Ferguson
09 Jan 09 |  Premier League


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