Sir Alex Ferguson has wasted no time in reigniting his long-running feud with Rafael Benitez by branding the new Chelsea boss "lucky" for having the chance to become a two-time world champion.
The Manchester United manager had a fractious relationship with Benitez during his time at Liverpool. They fell out when the Scot suggested Liverpool would be affected by nerves during the Premier League title run-in. Benitez's response was to deliver a series of "facts". As it turned out, United did win the title and within 12 months, Benitez had gone.
He soon succeeded Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan but Benitez did not last long, even though he won the Italian Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Ferguson said: "Benitez has been trying to get a job for a long time and he is very lucky because on his CV in two weeks' time he could have two world club titles to his name - and had nothing to do with the teams."
Ferguson continued: "Jose Mourinho won the treble at Inter; Rafa took over and they won the world title without having to do anything. He had nothing to do with the construction of the team."
Yet Ferguson acknowledges such good fortune could actually aid United this weekend as Benitez's first match in charge of the Stamford Bridge outfit is at home to presently unbeaten league leaders Manchester City on Sunday.
"I hope he is lucky on Sunday too," said Ferguson. "It happens time and time again when a new manager comes in that a team win their first few games.
"It is strange how it happens and sometimes you wonder if it encourages chairmen at football clubs to make changes because they think 'if we get a new manager we'll win the next two or three games'."
There is a mutual dislike between the two men which will make the next few months fascinating, even if United are not due to meet Chelsea again until the beginning of May.
And it somewhat overshadows Ferguson's sorrow for Roberto Di Matteo, who has become the latest manager to be uprooted by demanding owner Roman Abramovich, even though he delivered on the demand for the Champions League trophy in May.
"Everyone feels for Roberto Di Matteo," said Ferguson. "The biggest disappointment for me is in two weeks' time they are going to play in the Club World Cup. You would have thought they would have waited two weeks to give the guy a chance to win a world title. That's why I really feel disappointment for Roberto."
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- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Rafael Benitez