Ferguson already trying to knock Benitez off his perch


As statue is unveiled, Manchester United manager says Chelsea boss is 'very lucky', writes JAMIE JACKSON

Alex Ferguson has labelled Rafael Benitez as “very lucky” for being given the chance to win his second Fifa World Club title on the back of another manager’s achievement. Benitez, who took over at Stamford Bridge after Robert Di Matteo’s sacking, will take Chelsea to Japan next month for the tournament.

Their participation is based on them winning the Champions League title last May, under Di Matteo, and provides Benitez with a sense of deja vu given he won the title with Internazionale in 2010 after they had won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho seven months previously.

Ferguson said of the Italian’s removal: “You’d think they would give the guy the chance to win a world championship. 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.

“Jose Mourinho won the treble after going to [Inter] Milan. He [Benitez] 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.”

Asked about Chelsea’s propensity to discard managers regularly, Ferguson said: “Longevity helps. But Chelsea have had a lot of success. There are a lot of teams who have spent a lot of money and won nothing.”

First game

Benitez’s first game in charge is tomorrow’s visit of Manchester City and Ferguson, whose Manchester United side trail the champions by a point, said: “I hope he’s lucky on Sunday, too. It happens time and time again. A new manager comes in and wins his first few games.”

He still believes Chelsea are serious challengers despite the turmoil of losing Di Matteo and the fall-out from the Football Association finding Mark Clattenburg has no case to answer.

“A few weeks ago we were thinking it was certainly a three-horse race,” he said. “I don’t think that’s out of the question yet. Chelsea have a big squad of players and have a lot of experience in their squad.”

Regarding Clattenburg Ferguson added: “The unfortunate thing for Mark is that he has had to carry that stain for the last two weeks and I think everyone in the game is pleased for him now – apart from Chelsea.”

Against a manager-less Queens Park Rangers today Ferguson has Wayne Rooney available following tonsillitis. “Rooney is fit and has been training all week,” he said.

“Jonny Evans is hopefully training [following a groin issue] but I don’t know if he will be available. Chris Smalling will be available. He had a small shoulder injury on Tuesday and I wanted to play [Phil] Jones anyway, he did very well on his first game back. Nani is not available yet; he still has a little problem with his hamstring.”

Yesterday a statue of the manager was unveiled outside the Sir Alex Ferguson stand at Old Trafford, during a ceremony attended by the present squad and many of his former players, including Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

In an earlier interview with MUTV Ferguson hinted that retirement could be soon.

“I’ve had 26 years at the club so far and, when the time comes and I decide to hang up my boots [at] – who knows? Maybe 27 years – I think it will be a testimony to the work I’ve done at the club and that’s a fantastic respect to be paid. It’s an honour and I’m so proud of it.”

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