Ferguson revels in Benitez onslaught

United manager is in his element as relationship with Rafa takes a turn for worse

So now it is all out war. The increasingly fractious relationship between Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez deteriorated yet further yesterday when the Manchester United manager implied that his adversary should have been concentrating on the Champions League tie against Chelsea, which they lost 3-1, rather than attacking him for commenting on which club presented the biggest threat to United's title

"The interesting thing as far as Rafa Benitez is concerned is that he's got a European tie and he's talking about Alex Ferguson. Fantastic! I didn't know I was that important," the United manager said, behind a barely concealed smirk. Asked if he felt the pressure of a title race was getting to the Liverpool manager, Ferguson again let his expression do the talking. "I have no more comment to make," he said.

Benitez was indignant, on the eve of Wednesday's Chelsea match, that Ferguson had suggested the winner of that game presented the greater domestic threat but Ferguson defended his decision to say so. "If you ask me a question about other teams I'll give you an opinion. There's no fault in that," he said. "Arsène Wenger was talking about Manchester United a couple of weeks ago [calling them 'untouchable'] which I tried to dampen down as much as I could because I know the dangers of that. He was asked a question and he gave a fair answer."

The manner of Chelsea's win seems to have persuaded Ferguson that his initial prognosis was correct. He compared it yesterday to the legendary Ryan Giggs goal against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay. "From then on we were unbeatable," he said. "Hopefully Chelsea are beatable but they will be absolutely buoyed up now. You saw the celebrations at the end. They knew it was an emphatic result. I think they'll be flying at the moment. They played very well."

In a CNN interview, Ferguson has indicated that he may be around to joust with Benitez for as many as three more years, to fulfil a prime remaining aim of winning more European Cups.

"If there was one challenge, I would love the club to win more European trophies than they have done and I don't think we've won the number we should have won," he said. "Therefore if we could just win a couple more European trophies then I would definitely quit." He later referred to staying on "another two or three years... as long as I can."

Though it might not seem like it, Arsène Wenger is the individual Ferguson's considers his prime adversary. "If you take Chelsea – they've had three managers in the past three years, Liverpool have had seven managers in the time I've been here. No one has survived as long as Arsène."

Ferguson's side could be two points behind Liverpool, who play at lunchtime today, when they kick off against Sunderland, with another depleted squad. Rio Ferdinand only started running yesterday so will not be fit until Wednesday's encounter in Porto at the earliest and Jonny Evans (groin) is doubtful, which would mean John O'Shea starting at centre-back and Gary Neville, painfully short of match fitness, at right-back – the same combination that Aston Villa threatened last Sunday. Wayne Rooney's midweek rib knock was minor and will not keep him out today, while Dimitar Berbatov may also be ready for Porto.

Revealingly, Ferguson also said that the defeat against Liverpool had had a psychological bearing, despite his players' insistence that confidence is not an issue. "It's a strange situation," he said. "The shock of losing those terrible goals against Liverpool certainly has had an effect. But there is always a watershed and I think conceding that late goal against Porto on Tuesday was it because the players were gutted."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?