Chelsea supporters spent most of the night singing "We don't care about Rafa, he doesn't care about us, all we care about is Chelsea FC." It was hardly the worst abuse that the Spaniard has suffered during his short reign, and when he repeated his message afterwards to TV, radio and the written press it made it appear as if his intentions were pre-meditated.
He needed little prompting as the press pack gathered in a busy room, unaware of what was to happen. The Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter caught wind of Benitez's radio interview via Twitter, so after a couple of questions about the match, he lit the firework and stood back. For the next 13 minutes, it was Rafa unleashed.
The curious thing is that after a week where Chelsea lost at Manchester City and Benitez denied reports of a player row, the win over Middlesbrough offered a chance to underline the competitions in which Chelsea could yet triumph this season. Instead, Benitez singled out the fans, and more importantly, the club.
The spokesperson for Chelsea fanzine cfcuk, David Johnstone, believes Benitez can now expect the protests to increase when they host West Brom in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
He said: "If he is there for Saturday's game and if he thinks it was bad last night, he will get it in spades. He might have more than a banner, he might have his P45."
A section of the club's supporters was unable to forgive or forget Benitez for his association with Liverpool, and the acrimonious rivalry formed with then Blues boss Jose Mourinho.
Benitez outwitted "The Special One" in the
Champions League semi-finals and the
2006 FA Cup semi-finals,
and directed some barbs towards the club.
"I have been in charge in football for 26 years, I won the Champions League, I won the Fifa Club World Cup, the FA Cup, the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish league twice, nine trophies - all the trophies you can win at club level," said Benitez after a comfortable victory at the Riverside.
"So this group of fans are not making any favourites with the team and they are singing and wasting time preparing banners.
"They have to concentrate on supporting the team, that's what they have to do.
"Every game they continue singing and preparing banners, they are wasting time. What they have to do is support the team.
Doomed from the start?
Phil McNultyChief football writer, BBC Sport
This was a manager who loves total control working for an owner who would never give it to him, in a temporary tenure overseen by a discontented fanbase who grew to dislike Benitez during his time at Liverpool. It had all the hallmarks of a footballing marriage made in hell.
Benitez insists he was unaware he would be called the "interim manager" when he took charge at Stamford Bridge.
"I didn't know about the title," He added. "Obviously, you have an agent, they have to talk in Spanish-English translation, and I was surprised.
"But I couldn't change things because it was done. I thought it was a mistake, but still I couldn't change anything.
"I can't change the titles and the perception so it doesn't matter now. What I have to do is be sure that I give 100% every single day. They will know I am trying to do my best.
"The manager is the manager. One month, three months, seven months - it doesn't matter.
"I think the reason why the group of fans is not happy is because I was Liverpool manager, we played in the Champions League, massive games, that's it."
Benitez claimed supporters' protests against him were not helping the team achieve their aim of a top-four place and suggested they could be blamed if Chelsea end up playing Europa League football next season.
He added: "If they want to carry on wasting time with these things because they have an agenda, they have to take responsibility if something is wrong.
Where does Rafa rank?
The win percentage of Chelsea's Premier League managers:
"It's not just 'I will blame this one, I will blame the other one'. What they have to do is to support the team and then everyone has to stick together and we can achieve what we want to achieve - that is the Champions League. Simple.
"If not then next year they can carry on singing but we will be in the Europa League so they have to realise that they are not making any favour - to the rest of the fans and also to the players."
David Johnstone, spokesperson for Chelsea fanzine cfcuk, says Benitez was wrong to target fans in his outburst.
He added: "As for Rafael Benitez trying to blame supporters, unfortunately we don't pick the team otherwise if we did there would be changes.
"We support the team every week, we support John Terry and Frank Lampard, and we would like to see them playing more."
"Last night he said he was disappointed with some fans, well last night it was 99 per cent of those supporters there. You can't go upsetting Roman Abramovich, Rafael Benitez has had a brilliant contract from him. He should have got his head down and got on with the job."
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