The Daily Mail says less than 24 hours after they were beaten 2-0 by champions Manchester City, the Spaniard told his players that their attitude had cost a series of managers the sack, then lectured them on their failure to grasp tactics and a lack of effort.
But interim manager Benitez was stunned when one senior player suggested he might be at fault, given the club's success in winning the European Cup last May.
"We won the European Cup with this team," the player said. A furious Benitez also accused the squad of under-performing since he replaced Roberto Di Matteo in November.
Its reported John Terry, who has been overlooked since recovering from injury, then made a passionate case on behalf of the players, even though he wasn't even on the pitch at the Etihad Stadium.