Benitez vows to win over Chelsea boo boys
As far as ringing endorsements go, Chelsea’s new interim manager Rafael Benitez would have got a better reception had he walked out at Stamford Bridge to announce his resignation.
The Premier League club’s ninth manager of the Roman Abramovich era was afforded the kind of hostile welcome on Sunday normally reserved for the managers, players and fans of bitter rivals.
But these are no ordinary days at Chelsea and Benitez, thanks to his stint as Liverpool manager when he aimed a few barbs towards the capital club, is not one of their own. Nor from the jeers that serenaded his arrival in place of the popular Roberto Di Matteo will he ever be.
Di Matteo won the Champions League and FA Cup after taking charge last season, but a dip in form in this campaign and probable Champions League exit cost the Italian his job on Wednesday.
Benitez has the rest of this season to convince Abramovich of his credentials and although a 0-0 start against unbeaten Manchester City at least gave the 52-year-old something to build on, an uneventful match provided an uncomfortable backdrop.
Chants of “One Di Matteo” and “Rafa Benitez, we don’t want you here” echoed around the stadium time and time again in a dull first half.
City fans rubbed it in, taunting the Spaniard with cries of “sacked in the morning”. Then in the 16th minute — to mark Di Matteo’s squad number during his time as a player — Chelsea fans against burst into song in praise of the departed Italian.
Benitez, dressed in smart suit and blue tie, said he was unmoved by the jeers, but acknowledged success would be the only way to silence the critics.
“I am a professional, I will try to do my best. I am sure we will win games and we will win the games together,” he told a news conference.
“I have been here in England for eight years — I have heard a lot of things — the good thing is I don’t understand the things people sing. When the fans are singing — home fans or away fans — I don’t care...I am just focused on the game.
“I want to change their (Chelsea fans) perception. How? Working hard, do my best and win games. If we start performing, if we start winning games they will come on board. The manager wants to win every game, and so do the fans, so we will win together.”
Chelsea, who host Fulham on Wednesday, have gone five league games without a win but Benitez said he could take positives from the performance against City, pointing out that he needed to restore confidence to a side who appear to have lost the winning habit.
“Now is the beginning, it wasn’t easy, hopefully the next one will be easier,” he said.
“The team worked very hard, you could see all of them were together...we didn’t make too many mistakes...some situations in the past maybe they lost a bit of concentration.
“It was a clean sheet...and you have some positives but I’m not 100% satisfied because you want to win.”