I can win over Chelsea fans, says defiant Rafael Benitez
Chelsea's new manager Rafael Benitez was defiant last night that he could win the supporters over after being subjected to an extraordinarily hostile reception in his first game in charge yesterday.
The former Liverpool manager was loudly booed before the game, while many Chelsea fans sang songs such as "F*** off Benitez, you're not welcome here". Roberto Di Matteo's name was sung throughout.
Benitez insisted that he was "not listening" to the fans. "My experience in England is that when the fans are singing in the stands, I don't understand what they say," he said. "So I was just concentrating. I can understand because of the rivalry in the past. But I'm sure the majority of the fans will understand: I'm a professional, I do my job, I want to win, and I want to win for the club. I hope they share those ideas.
"I was just concentrating on the game and not listening to anything else. Just the performance of the players on the pitch."
The home supporters also brought banners to the 0-0 draw with Manchester City, with slogans such as "In Rafa we will never trust". Benitez questioned how representative those signs were.
"How many people do you need to write a banner?" he asked. "Just one. Then two holding it."
When Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was asked what Benitez needed to do to win over the fans, his answer was clear: "Win, win, win, win, win, win, win. Win every game. Only the results can help, I think so."
Benitez agreed with Mancini that success was the answer. "It's not a secret, it's true," he said.
"If we start winning games, they will come on board and they will see I'll try to do my best. The manager wants to win every game and the fans the same. So we will win together.
"The main thing is that the players are focused on the games. If they are, it'll be fine. I have confidence we will do well and win games. Some of the fans will realise it's not the way to support their team. They'll know they have a professional manager in charge, someone who wants to win games."
Benitez's first game was fairly quiet, with Chelsea mustering just one shot on target. The Spaniard spoke to Roman Abramovich afterwards and said the Chelsea owner was relaxed about the result and performance.
"[Abramovich] knows it was a tough game, a difficult time after the last games," Benitez said. "He knows my opinion. He's like me: he knows we have to win, want to win, and we keep working for that."
However, Benitez admitted that confidence was low after a difficult week. "The team were not performing at their level in the last games and lost a bit of confidence from the Champions League game," he said, referring to the 3-0 loss to Juventus on Tuesday. "But this was a clean sheet after so many games. You have some positives. I'm not 100 per cent satisfied because I want to win. But there aren't too many teams better than City in the Premier League."
Mancini said that Benitez would need time to revive Chelsea. "I don't think that Rafa is a magician," he said. "I don't think he can change everything in a few days. Two weeks ago, Chelsea were on top and playing well. They have good players. Every manager needs time."
Mancini said that he was frustrated with City's performance. The champions created chances in the first half but barely threatened after the break.
"I'm not satisfied with one point," Mancini said. "To play here at Chelsea is always difficult but to play well as we did here today, we can't lose two points. We were so poor in the last 20 metres. When we have a chance, we need to score. I like everything from my team, but not the last 20 metres. We had chances to score but we missed the last pass. If you are soft, you won't score. That's why I was upset."
Mancini predicted that Chelsea would still be in the title race: "We want to defend [the title]. But I think that us, United and Chelsea will fight for this title. They are a team to fight for this title."