Manchester:Sir Alex Ferguson has cranked up his war of words with Rafael Benitez by voicing surprise that the Liverpool manager took aim at Manchester United while preparing for their Champions League clash with Chelsea.
United boss Ferguson and Liverpool manager Benitez have been embroiled in a lengthy verbal feud since the Spaniard hit out at Ferguson's conduct at a January press conference.
Benitez stepped up the row earlier this month by responding to suggestions by Ferguson that the winners of the Liverpool-Chelsea Champions League tie would prove to be United's closest challengers in the Premier League title race, with a claim that the Old Trafford boss was 'maybe a little bit scared' of Liverpool.
With United and Liverpool still vying for the title, Ferguson has questioned the timing of Benitez's 'scared' accusation.
The Scot said: "If you ask me a question about other teams, I'll give you an opinion. There's no fault in that.
"Arsene Wenger was talking about Manchester United a couple of weeks ago when he was asked a question and he gave a fair answer.
"But the interesting thing as far as Rafa Benitez is concerned is that he's got a European tie (against Chelsea) and he's talking about Alex Ferguson. Fantastic! I didn't know I was that important!"
Ferguson, speaking ahead of Saturday's league trip to Sunderland, smiled when asked whether he had 'got under Benitez's skin.'
"I have no more comment to make!" he said.
With many focusing on the battle between United and Liverpool, Ferguson has warned against discounting the claims of Chelsea, who flexed their muscles with a 3-1 win at Anfield in their Champions League first-leg.
Ferguson said: "Chelsea will be absolutely buoyed up (by the victory at Liverpool). You saw the celebrations at the end.
"They knew it was an emphatic result and they will be flying at the moment. That was a good performance by them. I remember when we won the Treble in 1999 -- you can never forget Ryan Giggs' goal (agains Arsenal) at Villa Park.
"That just lifted everyone and from then on we were unbeatable. It does that to you when you get a very important result, but hopefully Chelsea are beatable.
"I'd be happy with the race going down to the last day, though. It would do me fine because we're used to that. We've done it four times."