Raging Rafa goes on Ferguson offensive

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez launched a stinging attack on Manchester United counterpart Alex Ferguson on Friday, accusing him of being the only manager who escapes punishment for outspoken comments on referees. In an extraordinary press conference, Benitez, made a number of inflammatory comments about his bitter rival. Referring to what appeared to be a dossier of well researched facts, the Liverpool boss said that Ferguson was the “only manager who will not be punished” in the current Respect campaign. Ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Stoke on Saturday, Benitez then launched a furious tirade in response to Ferguson’s midweek comments that the Premier League had favoured Liverpool by weighting their schedule with home matches in the early part of the season. Ferguson claims that his team “have been handicapped by the Premier League.”  Benitez began his war of words by accusing the Manchester United manager of trying to play mind games: “I was surprised but I have to talk about facts,” said Benitez. “I think that is important. I think they [United] are nervous because we are at the top of the table. “I want to be clear. I don’t want to play mind games too early and I think that they want to start.” Benitez then pulled out a piece of paper and began a lengthy list of accusations about the Scot’s treatment of referees. “We had a meeting about the Respect campaign and I was very clear – forget about it, because Mr Ferguson is killing the referees, Killing Mr [Martin] Atkinson, killing Mr [Keith] Hackett. “How can you talk about the Respect campaign and yet criticise the referee every single week?” Ferguson, who was handed a two-game touchline ban and fined £10,000 in November for confronting Mike Dean during United’s match with Hull, had his pre-match press conference before Benitez’s and was unable to provide an immediate response. Benitez’s outburst, however, continued as he refuted Ferguson’s claims that the Premier League’s fixture system favoured Liverpool. "Then he was talking about the fixtures," said the Liverpool chief. "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.” Yet to mention anything about his team's clash with Stoke, Benitez continued to voice his anger at Ferguson and offered a sarcastic solution to his counterpart’s complaint about the fixture list:  “There are two options if we don't want more problems with fixtures. "One is the same 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. "Or there is another option. That Mr Ferguson organises the fixtures in his office and sends it to us and everyone will know and cannot complain. That is simple.” The press cameras were still rolling and by now Benitez was in full flow. With his attention firmly fixed on the Manchester United manager, the Spaniard’s next claim was that Ferguson’s bully boy tactics on match days was the reason for the Scot and United escaping punishment where others had fallen foul. Benitez then offered Luiz Felipe Scolari a word of advice as he prepares to take his Chelsea team to Old Trafford on Sunday. "We know what happens every time we go to Old Trafford," he said. "He [Scolari] needs to know to use the zonal marking against the staff of Manchester United staff because 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.” The Spaniard has had a rocky relationship with a number of managers in the past, most notably Martin O’Neill during Liverpool’s public interest in signing Gareth Barry during the summer. And Benitez also clashed with England coach Fabio Capello and the FA when Steven Gerrard was forced to make a 400 mile round-trip to prove he wasn’t fit enough to take part in England’s friendly against Germany last November. Story by James McConnell  NEWS: Rafael Benitez press conference in full LIVERPOOL FANS! Check FourFourTwo.com’s ever-expanding interviews archive for more stuff to read: Web Exclusives Ian Rush, Craig Johnston Q&A Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres One on One Michael Owen, Nicolas Anelka, Kevin Keegan Boy's A Bit Special Danny Guthrie Ask A Silly Question John Barnes, Peter Crouch, Luis Garcia, John Aldridge Perfect XI Jamie Carragher What Happened Next? Julian Dicks Plus! Rate Liverpool players (and others) on Talentspotter UNITED FANS! 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