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Benitez launches remarkable blast at Chelsea board and supporters
AFTER successfully emerging from a tricky FA Cup tie on Teesside unscathed last night, Chelsea's interim boss Rafael Benitez launched a remarkable attack on the fans he feels are threatening to derail the club's push for a Champions League spot.
Rafa's rant came in the immediate aftermath of the Blues' 2-0 victory at Middlesbrough when large sections of the away support once again voiced their disgust at the Spaniard's appointment four months ago.
In what appeared to be a pre-planned blast, Benitez also criticised the decision from inside the Chelsea boardroom to give him an 'interim' title when he succeeded Roberto di Matteo in November.
“It was a surprise to me to be interim,” said Benitez. “It was a mistake. I am the manager and I will be the manager until someone decides in June. I cannot change that. The manager is the manager, one month, seventh months ...”
Benitez does not think the Chelsea fans' feelings towards him is a direct result of the 'interim' tag, but feels it did not help things.
His biggest complaint is the way derogatory chants from the stands are still being directed in his direction after 27 matches in charge.
After Sunday's defeat to Manchester City, Chelsea have lost their hold on third spot in the Premier League and there are just two points separating them with fifth place Arsenal.
And after sealing a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – courtesy of second half goals from Fernando Torres and Victor Moses – at the Riverside last night, Benitez has warned his critics in the stands to change or risk partial blame for finishing outside the top four.
He said: “I am leaving at the end of the season. Every game they continue singing, preparing banners, they are wasting time. If we don't achieve what we have to achieve then I will leave and they will stay in the Europa League, they have to realise they are making a big mistake. “I feel it would be much better to support the team, back the players. Everyone has to take responsibility. Next year I will leave so they don't need to worry about me.”
Benitez has no intention of stepping down, despite a tough week in which the pressure has grown after reports of unrest from inside the dressing room. The 52-year-old has denied that and he is focused on trying to do the best he can.
“I am the manager and I will be managing the team, the players,” he said. “I will pick my team, I will leave at the end of the season anyway, I am only interim. I proved in this three months I want to win every single game. If we win I will be the happiest man in the world. “If a group of fans continue their agenda, they are not helping the team. I am pleased to be here, they are a top side, working hard, and it's not a problem.”
Chelsea progressed in to the next round of the FA Cup despite a pretty event first half at the Riverside, when Middlesbrough competed and had the better chances in the opening 45 minutes.
But after the restart Chelsea's extra quality got them through.
Benitez said: “The manager (Tony Mowbray) is doing a good job here at Middlesbrough, they played hard and caused us some problems.
“We had to push higher up the pitch after half-time and we found more spaces in possession. Credit to them though because they had a very good half and we needed to do better after half-time and did.”