Benitez fuels Ferguson feud

BIRMINGHAM: Rafael Benitez extended his feud with Sir Alex Ferguson by refusing to congratulate the Manchester United manager for his title triumph, following Liverpool's 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion which saw the losers relegated to the Championship.

The Spaniard has been daggers drawn with his opposite number at Old Trafford all season in an intriguing side-show to the challenge for the title between their two sides and he remained bitter towards the Glaswegian 24 hours after having to concede defeat to United.

Benitez was asked if he would like to extend his congratulations to Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United for winning the title.

"I will say congratulations to Manchester United. I prefer to say that to them," said the Spaniard.

But when pressed further to extend his congratulations to Ferguson in person, Benitez would only say: "They are a big club and a good club. I normally show respect and be polite to other managers at the end of the season.

"But there have been a lot of things I don?t like this season. I say congratulations to Manchester United because they have won the title, but that is it."

Liverpool assured themselves of first place and Benitez feels he has laid down a marker this season in extending United to such lengths and he could not resist a further dig at Ferguson when asked to define what have been the deciding factors in the title race.

"They have had better quality on the bench. When they played us they had Scholes, Giggs and Berbatov on the bench. I am really pleased that we have got 83 points with the squad we have. When you are prepared to pay 20million pounds or 30million pounds for players it is easier to win the title," he added.

Benitez will not be taking any disciplinary action over the on-the-field row between Alvaro Arbeloa and Jamie Carragher after the pair squared up to each other in the second half.

Carragher and the Spanish defender almost came to blows as a row over positional play escalated on the field.

"I don't like it, but we wanted to keep a clean sheet for Pepe. It also showed that we have a positive mentality and a character not to concede a goal," said Benitez.

Albion's Roman Bednar is facing the sack from West Bromwich Albion when club chairman Jeremy Peace finishes the internal investigation into allegations of the Czech Republic striker purchasing drugs.

Bednar has been suspended by Albion, following revelations in a Sunday tabloid, allegedly picturing the Albion player purchasing cocaine and cannabis near his West Midlands home.

He was removed from the squad to face Liverpool at the Hawthorns yesterday and is now facing a battle to save his career - following pictures of him handing over money to allegedly pay for class A drugs.

Albion manager Tony Mowbray is understood to feel hugely let down by the player, who allegedly admitted buying drugs for a friend and wants the club to take the strongest possible sanctions against the 27-year-old.

"The club have taken action by suspending Roman and until they can get to the bottom of it, I don't really want to say too much more. Of course I don't condone drugs in sport," said Mowbray.

"Until we have all the details that is all we should say about it. It did not disrupt our preparation.

"I had to speak to the players about it in the morning before the game, because that is what everyone was talking about, but it did not disrupt us.

"I would prefer to talk about the magnificent way our team played and the fantastic support we were given by the fans.

"I want to concentrate on them and doing something for them next season and getting them back into the Premier League."