Rafael Benitez has launched a heavy attack on Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson in his prematch post conference today, ahead of the Stoke City trip tomorrow.
The Reds manager claims that Ferguson gets away with a lot more than other managers and needs to curb the mind-games.
“We had a Respect campaign meeting and I said forget it, because Mr Ferguson is killing the referees,” said Benitez.
The Spaniard was responding to Ferguson’s midweek claims that Liverpool may stutter in their bid to win the title this season. Being asked about this claim opened the gate for these statements.
“All managers need to know is that only Mr Ferguson can talk about the fixtures, can talk about referees and nothing happens.”
“I was surprised by what has been said, but maybe they (Manchester United) are nervous because we are at the top of the table,” Benitez added.
Benitez then retrieved and referred to a sheet of paper that listed what he called “facts”.
“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 raised the subject of fixture listing and the complaints Ferguson has had over this.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Benitez was also asked about his current contract situation.
“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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