No holds barred as Liverpool boss attacks Ferguson

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has launched a bitter attack on his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has launched a bitter attack on his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

Benitez claimed: "We had a meeting in Manchester with managers and the Football Association about the respect campaign.

"And I was very clear, forget the campaign because Mr Ferguson was killing the referees, killing Mr (Martin) Atkinson, killing Mr (Keith) Hackett.

At his regular pre-match press conference the Spaniard read a list of grievances against Manchester United from a piece of paper.

Ferguson's complaints about supposed favouritism over fixtures brought this response from the Reds chief: "I was surprised by what has been said, but maybe they are nervous because we are at the top of the table.

"But I want to talk about facts. I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start."

He said: "All managers need to know is that only Mr Ferguson can talk about the fixtures, can talk about referees and nothing happens.

"We need to know that I am talking about facts, not my impression. There are things that everyone can see every single week.

"Are they under pressure? Maybe they were not thinking that we would be at the top of the table in January. But we are at the top of the table and they are nervous.

"I am not telling the authorities what to do. But I have been here for five years and know how things are going on."

Benitez added: "To hear someone talking when he has problems with referees every single week, and now complaining about the fixtures and complaining about everything, I think that is not fair.

"You can see every week how they put (referees) under pressure, we know this. We have seen it before.

"We have seen players sent off at Old Trafford and we do not see our opponents sent off.

"It is part of the game. But to complain and to always have an advantage is not fair.

"During the respect campaign, and this is a fact, Mr Ferguson was charged by the FA for improper conduct after comments made about Martin Atkinson and (the FA's) Keith Hackett.

"He was not punished. He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things."

"How can you talk about the respect campaign and criticise the referee every single week.

"Then he was talking about the fixtures. Two years ago we were playing a lot of early kick-offs away on Saturdays when United were playing on Sundays - and we didn't say anything.

"Now he is complaining about everything, that everybody is against United. But the second half of the season will see them playing at home against all the teams at the top of the table, it is a fantastic advantage.

"But at Christmas, United played on December 29 and the rest of the teams played on the 28th. We were away against Newcastle two days after playing Bolton. They were playing about 40 hours later, they were not complaining then.

"If he wants to talk about fixtures, and have a level playing field as you say in England. There are two options if we don't want more problems.

"One is (to have the same system) as in Spain, the draw for the first part of the league is known, everyone knows which weekend. In the second half everyone plays the opposite, so you all know.

"Sky and Setanta have the rights to choose their games and it will be the same for everyone. So Mr Ferguson will not be complaining about fixtures and a campaign against United.

"There is another option. Mr Ferguson organises the fixtures in his office and sends it to us and everyone will know and cannot complain. That is simple.

Benitez finished off by criticising the conduct of United officials when Liverpool play matches at Old Trafford.

He added: "We know what happens every time we go to Old Trafford and the United staff.

"They are always going man-to-man with the referees, especially at half-time when they walk close to the referees and they are talking and talking..."

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