Friday, April 24, 2009

Rafa sticks it to Fergie again

Liverpool's Rafa Benitez has fired the latest broadside in his war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson by claiming he is the only boss to stand up to the Manchester United manager.

The Anfield chief has been involved in a tit-for-tat battle with his Old Trafford rival since the turn of the year as the pair scrap for the Premier League title.

Benitez, provoked by a prod from Ferguson regarding an ability to handle pressure, sparked the mind games skirmish in January following his infamously astonishing assessment of his counterpart's alleged influence over referees and the fixture list.

On Monday, Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee claimed the club were not interested in exchanging words with United, and Benitez insists he is not involved in a verbal conflict with Ferguson.

But the Spaniard has again spoken of his top-flight foe, telling Madrid-based paper ABC: "I'm not having a battle of words with Alex Ferguson.

"But I believe that he can see that we are the better side, and that we are very close to United.

"He has been accustomed to playing these types of mind games for many years.

"Nobody has ever said anything against him, or stood up to him. It seems like he has a licence to do these sorts of things.

"I try not to talk too much. But all I do when I speak is to defend my own team.

"I did not say that he seems frightened. I said that he looks nervous, as he can see that we are very close to his team."

Benitez, who saw his side drop points in Tuesday's 4-4 draw with Arsenal, is also adamant his side will not throw in the towel in their bid to secure a first league title in 19 years, despite trailing United by three points having played a game more.

He added: "It is essential for us to try to keep the pressure on United. We must not slacken off, and if we keep going that will make them feel under pressure.

"They have an advantage and if they don't slip up there is nothing we can do. But we must stay as close to them as possible in case they slip up.

"In any case, we will go after the title as long as it is still a possibility for us."

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