Give Benitez a break, says United manager Ferguson


Last updated at 21:25 23 January 2008

Sir Alex Ferguson

has launched a

passionate defence of

Liverpool manager

Rafa Benitez, urging

Anfield's American owners

to "show class" and act like a

"big club".

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Benitez is fighting to save his job

due to the infighting that has seen

the Spaniard challenge owners

Tom Hicks and George Gillett over

their failure to provide the funds for

new players this month.

The outspoken Hicks has since

driven a further wedge between

himself and Benitez by admitting

to talks with Jurgen Klinsmann

over the possibility of the German

replacing Benitez.

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fergie and rafa

Opposition to Hicks and Gillett

has hardened to the point where

demonstrating fans are calling

for their swift departure.


Ferguson, who has forged a seemingly

perfect working relationship

with the Glazer family, Manchester

United's American owners, claims

Benitez has been treated shabbily.

Ferguson said of the Klinsmann

meeting: "That was a bad piece of

business on Liverpool's part. That

sort of thing can be very upsetting

for a manager.

"As a manager, there are quite a

few moments in every week when

you're on your own and people

don't want to knock on your door

because they think you're busy all

the time, but you can be sitting

there twiddling your thumbs.

"You can fill your time by phoning

other managers and doing other

things, but there's a lot of time

spent on your own and, in

moments like that, Rafa must feel

very alone.

"How you react depends

on what kind of person you are and Rafa seems a stubborn character

who can put aside emotion,

whereas Martin Jol seemed to be

more affected by it when a similar

thing happened to him at Spurs.

"I've been very fortunate at

United because I have had good

directors, people like Bobby

Charlton and Martin Edwards, who

always supported me very well. At

big clubs, it is paramount that the

board shows their class.

"Twenty years ago, Liverpool were

a closely knit and well-run club

and, when Peter Robinson was the

secretary, a tightly run ship.

"Obviously results matter and they

matter to me and they also matter

to the likes of Arsene Wenger. But

Wenger had great support from

David Dein at Arsenal and I've had

great support, too, ever since I

came here.

"So there is unity there. You

should allow a manager to get on

with his job."

When Ferguson arrived at Old

Trafford from Aberdeen in 1986, he

admitted that his No 1 priority

was to knock Liverpool off their


It appeared a tall order, with

Liverpool having collected four

European Cups and nine League

championships since United had

lifted their last title in 1967.

But the United manager has left

Liverpool in the shade during his 22

years in English football and he

claims it will be more difficult for

Liverpool to close the gap if

Benitez is forced out.

Ferguson said: "The important

thing is that big clubs should be

seen to be big clubs. Most players

want to play for Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or

Liverpool, but when they see a club

that is topsy-turvy, with a divide

between the manager and the

directors, they might think twice.

They want to join a stable club.

"One thing is that Rafa has

brought in a lot of his players

because of his Spanish connections.

Now, if an English manager

was to come into Liverpool, that

connection is gone."

The disharmony at Anfield has

coincided with the run of poor

results that sees Liverpool lying in

fifth place in the Premiership, 14

points adrift of leaders United.

Ferguson, due to return from

United's trip to Saudi Arabia today,

added: "Liverpool will be concentrating

on trying to win the

European Cup rather than the

League this season. I say that

because there are three clubs

ahead of them rather than just one.

"It's a long way to Arsenal,

Chelsea and ourselves. If it was just

one club in front of them, you still

couldn't write Liverpool off. But it

is very difficult to think that three

teams could ever drop that number

of points and be caught."

Ferguson has claimed it is

United's defence — and not the

attacking trio of Wayne Rooney,

Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos

Tevez — that is the key to his side's

title bid.

He said: "There's a good

understanding of the importance of

the defensive part of our game and

we're better than we were last