Sir Alex Ferguson has wasted no time renewing his rabid rivalry with Rafael Benitez, calling him a “very lucky” manager who may win the World Club Championship twice without deserving either title.
Ferguson, who famously suggested that an appreciation of Freud was required to read the Spaniard's state of mind as his Liverpool side ran United close for the title in 2009, said his old adversary had not come even close to the achievement of Jose Mourinho's treble - which included the 2010 Champions League title.
Yet Benitez had still wound up winning the World Club Championship when he took over at San Siro. Benitez, whose Inter side beat TP Mazembe of the Congo to clinch that trophy in December 2010, will take Chelsea to the same championships in Japan, next month.
“You'd think that they would give [Roberto di Matteo] the chance to win a World Championship,” Ferguson said. “Rafa Benitez is very lucky because on his CV in two weeks time he could have two World Championships to his name - and nothing to do with the teams. Everyone feels for Roberto Di Matteo and quite rightly. It's quite amazing that you win the FA Cup and the Champions League. The biggest disappointment for me is that in two weeks time they go to the World Championships.
”Jose Mourinho won the treble after going to Milan. He 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 really have on his CV an FA Cup, a Champions League and a World Club Championship. It's a pity for him.“ Ferguson has won the world title once - in 2008 but his United failed disastrously in 1999.”
Ferguson cautioned that a huge weight of expectation will face Benitez and that the Spaniard faces the self-same problem he encountered at Internazionale – life in Mourinho’s shadow. “When Mourinho went there Chelsea’s expectations went up there is no doubt about that,” he said. “That is what we are looking at now. The expectation is not matching Mourinho’s achievements.”
When it was put to Ferguson that increasingly few manager would want to consider the poisoned chalice of working as a football manager for Roman Abramovich, Ferguson said: “It is proven that someone always wants a job. Rafa Benitez 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.”
The two managers have a while to grow re-accustomed to each other before their paths cross, though if Chelsea do re-enter the title race there is scope for an intense collision between the two such very different personalities when Chelsea visit Old Trafford on May 4. ”A few weeks ago we were looking at a three-horse race (for the title). I don't think that's out of the question yet,“ Ferguson said.