Roman Abramovich empire is a match for Ferguson, says Rafael Benitez
Blues manager takes dig at Old Trafford counterpart before Monday's FA Cup replay
Rafa Benitez has taken another swipe at Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of Monday's lunchtime showdown in the FA Cup, claiming Chelsea's endless managerial upheaval under Roman Abramovich has still proved as successful as the Scot's time in charge at Old Trafford for the same period.
Benitez, the interim manager, is the ninth man to take charge at Stamford Bridge during Abramovich's reign as owner. In that time they have won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Champions League. United have won four titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups and the Champions League.
"You can talk about strategies and philosophies but Chelsea have won as many trophies changing managers as United have won with the same manager," he said, "You are talking about two top sides with good players. We just have to try to be more consistent to the end of the season.
"It's a good question (is Ferguson the most powerful man in English football?) but I will not give you the answer. I just concentrate on doing my best on Monday and trying to win."
Benitez and Ferguson's fractious relationship hit a new low after the first FA Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford last month, when the Chelsea boss accused the Scot of snubbing a handshake before kick-off. Ferguson branded the claim as "absolute nonsense" but Benitez has hit back by declaring he will offer a handshake to the Manchester United manager at the Monday match.
Benitez was so angered by Ferguson's apparent snub at the first game, which ended in a 2-2 draw (the Manchester United manager had also not made reference to Benitez in his programme notes) that he made an issue of it. The two men have a fractious relationship, dating back to the Spaniard's time in charge at Liverpool.
"Why wouldn't I shake hands?" said Ferguson. "Have you ever seen me not shake hands with anyone? I never saw him, I was signing autographs. If he wanted to shake my hand, he could have stood in front of me."
The two men will come face to face for the first time since that incident at Stamford Bridge today, with a place in the semi-final of the FA Cup against Manchester City at Wembley the prize for the winner.
"I won't waste too much time with that," said Benitez. "You have the responsibility, a lot of people are watching you so I will shake hands with him and that's it. The other one is very simple, watch the DVD of the first match, not the repetition of what happened after, and it's very clear.
"I have to concentrate on my job. The biggest challenge is to be consistent and to win games. If we play at the level of some of the games we played two weeks ago we can beat anyone."
Chelsea go into today's game on the back of a defeat at Southampton, a loss which came after Benitez rested seven players at St Mary's. However he denied he was prioritising the replay.
"Chelsea has a lot of good players but to play two games a week for four months, it's not easy to keep the team at the same level all the time," he said. "You have a team in transition, a new manager, new players.
"United have the same manager for years and 80 per cent of the squad is the same. Chelsea are changing because they have brought in some good players but they still need to settle down and they have to be consistent. That is the one thing that you will have when you know the league, the referees and the rivals and your team-mates. So it is a question of time.
"We are stronger than a lot of teams. You can see this in the last weeks, we played very good games and we won some of them. Still we can play very good football and compete against anyone. United are at the top of the table but we were much better than them in the first game.
"So I think we can compete. The question is when you play two games in three days, it has been the same for four months maybe, it's not easy. I think we are doing well for the situation that we have."
Ferguson is likely to recall Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand for the 12.30 kick-off at Stamford Bridge. Both players were rested in United's 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday.
"That's the reason they are top of the table, because they have a very strong squad," added Benitez. "Just analyse the four strikers they have and we only have two. So they have four and all of them are at a very good level, and we have two at a good level too.
"It was a problem when we had just Fernando Torres but with Demba Ba we have two options, although he cannot play in the Europa League. We have offensive players with enough quality to create, but in some positions to find the balance and play so many games it's not easy. It will be a boost for everyone (if Chelsea win). I still think we can manage if everything is going well."
Old pals: United and Chelsea FA Cup meetings
* 14 May 1994: Final
Man United 4 (Cantona 2 [2 pens], Hughes, McClair) Chelsea 0
Sir Alex Ferguson's side scored three times in 10 second-half minutes, before Brian McClair's injury-time fourth.
* 4 January 1998: Third round
Chelsea 3 (Le Saux 2, Vialli) Man United 5 (Beckham 2, Cole 2, Sheringham)
Teddy Sheringham put United 5-0 up with 15 minutes remaining, before Graeme Le Saux and Gianluca Vialli at least restored the holders' pride.
* 19 May 2007: Final
Chelsea 1 (Drogba) Man United 0 (aet)
United forced extra time in a dour game at the new Wembley before Didier Drogba prevented penalties with just four minutes remaining.
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