Ferguson and Benitez avoid war of words
Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez will meet as managers for the first time in three years when Manchester United take on Chelsea in the FA Cup tomorrow, but have refused to be drawn into a war of words with each other.
The pair have had a long-running feud which dates back to Benitez’s time in charge at Liverpool. Neither manager would be drawn on whether the hostilities would resume at Old Trafford.
While Benitez refused to comment on his relationship with Ferguson, the United boss told the Telegraph that what happened at Chelsea didn’t affect him. He said: “I’m not going to kick anyone when they’re lying down. That’s not my style.”
The Reds were knocked out of the Champions League harshly when they lost 2-1 to Real Madrid on Tuesday, and Ferguson will be keen for his side to take up the challenge of Chelsea’s visit.
He said: “There are a lot of things you can do when you lose, but we won’t give in. We will get off our backsides and be ready for Sunday.
“A big game is the best and at home we’ll play anyone. Chelsea have a terrific Cup record, the best in the last decade. We haven’t won it for nine years, so there are a lot of incentives.”
United are still in the hunt for their first league and FA Cup double since the 1998-99 season, when they also won the Champions League. Chelsea, meanwhile, will be keen to progress in the FA Cup, a competition which holds their most realistic chance of silverware this season.
Blues defender Branislav Ivanovic said: “Time is running out for us. If we want to change things, we have to show more character, to play as a team, show fighting spirit as a team.”
Should Chelsea lose to United and also fail to overcome Steaua in the Europa League next Thursday, they will be looking at their second season in the last three without a trophy.
Ivanovic said: “We have to be honest with each other. We have to look in the mirror and see that a lot of things are not going how we would like them to.”