Ferguson wastes no time with fiery welcome for old adversary Benitez
If you thought that time had tempered Alex Ferguson's antipathy towards Rafael Benitez, think again. The Manchester United manager has reignited hostilities with his old nemesis, claiming that the Spaniard was a "lucky" manager who merely inherited successful teams.
As a welcome back to the Premier League for Benitez, who had barely been in the chair 48 hours before Ferguson launched his barbs, it was not exactly effusive. Ferguson was especially scornful of the notion that his old sparring partner at Liverpool could win next month's Club World Cup with Chelsea, despite never having contributed to the construction of the side.
"Rafa Benitez is very lucky because on his CV in two weeks' time he could have two world championships to his name – and (had) nothing to do with the teams," Ferguson argued, indicating that Inter Milan's win in the 2010 Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi was purely the accomplishment of a team built by Jose Mourinho, whom Benitez succeeded at San Siro.
"Jose Mourinho won the treble after going to Milan. Rafa took over and won a world championship without having to do anything. He had nothing to do with the construction of the teams and that's where I feel real disappointment for Roberto di Matteo – he could have on his CV an FA Cup, a Champions League and a world club championship. Everyone feels for Roberto and quite rightly. It's quite amazing that you win the FA Cup and the Champions League. It's a pity for him."
If Benitez had expected some cordial words of good luck, or perhaps a glass of red from the Ferguson wine cabinet, he was to be gravely mistaken. His old rival was not in diplomatic mood, either in characterising Benitez's good fortune or the fickleness of Roman Abramovich in appointing a ninth manager in nine years.
"It is proven that someone always wants a job," Ferguson said. "Rafa is prepared to take it short term. It shows you his eagerness to get back in. Football people are like that. They want to get back in, they want to manage even though they know there are pitfalls.
"It is not an easy job today. Expectation levels are never met. It has changed over the last 25 years. New types of owners have come in.
"Look back at Arsenal under the Hill-Woods. You'd never expect anything like that happening under stable people like that. But it has changed. You now have Russians, Americans, Chinese. Maybe they expect to come in and win everything. Maybe they think it is easy."
On a day when Ferguson had a statue of himself unveiled outside Old Trafford, he was not shy of taking aim at Chelsea's short-termist approach, emphasising the virtues of stability. "Longevity helps," he said. "That is my opinion. But Chelsea have had a lot of success. There are a lot of teams who have spent money and won nothing.
"There are a few who have spent and won no titles or Champions Leagues. When Mourinho went there, Chelsea's expectations went up. That is what we are looking at now. The expectation is not matching Mourinho's achievements."
Ferguson was similarly critical of Chelsea's stance over Mark Clattenburg. The plight of the referee, cleared by the English FA and Metropolitan Police of using inappropriate language towards John Obi Mikel, drew the United manager's fullest sympathy.
"I did not believe it anyway," he said. "The unfortunate thing for Mark is that he has had to carry that stain for the last few weeks. Everyone in the game is pleased for him now – apart from Chelsea."
Asked if there should be an official apology from Chelsea, he replied: "I don't need to comment on that – it is so obvious. I am delighted for Mark Clattenburg and I think everyone in the game is." (© Daily Telegraph, London)