Rafa Benitez reacts to Rio Ferdinand's controversial Newcastle comments

Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United's fans can make up their own minds on Rio Ferdinand's controversial comments.

Ferdinand backed owner Mike Ashley while appearing as a pundit on BT Sport for the club's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Speaking about Ashley, the former Manchester United defender said: "He spent £50million of his own money to get them back up (from the Championship).

"You can’t hammer him and say that he should be spending when he wants to sell the club.

"You look down the road, last season or whatever, Sunderland spent £1.2million to get in the Championship.

"He's done that to get them back up, and by the way, please say thank you for getting Rafa Benitez in because by rights, they're lucky to have him.

“All these fans, they do dream, and they dream big and I understand that.

“What are Newcastle’s aims? They can’t be aiming at being a Manchester United or a Manchester City. They’ve got to aim to be a Bournemouth."

Benitez, United's manager, was asked about Ferdinand's comments ahead of tomorrow night's FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

"Two things," said Benitez, who is hoping Ashley will back him in this month's transfer window..

"Our supporters are quite clever. And I have to concentrate on our business."

Benitez went on: "We have had this conversation in the past one or two years ago.

"Newcastle fans want a team that can compete. They're clear on that.

"It's not that they want to compete against the teams at the top of the table, they want a team that can compete with the teams in the middle.

"I think the majority of the fans appreciate that. I have been in football all my life, and I know if you're not winning games, people are talking, but the majority of the supporters support the team and support me because they know where we are."