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.
“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.”