Wigan manager Roberto Martinez today refused to deny that he had described Sir Alex Ferguson as having a group of 'faithful' managers who gang up against Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.
Martinez confirmed that he made early-morning phone calls to Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce and Sunderland's Steve Bruce over comments made in a Spanish newspaper last weekend.
Once the full implication of the comments began to sink in here, the former Swansea City chief contacted the League Managers' Association, who issued a statement saying the Spaniard 'categorically denied' the quotes.
However, Martinez today refused to repeat that denial, choosing instead to dance around the questions put to him in a press conference.
Both Allardyce and Bruce were happy to take Martinez's calls and, according to sources, the explanation was accepted, albeit grudgingly.
The Spaniard felt the need to clear the air after categorically denying he suggested the Football Association are afraid to punish United boss Ferguson.
Martinez said: 'Those managers have probably been in this situation and know how things work. I have had a lot of support in that respect.
Three amigos? Ferguson, Bruce (left) and Allardyce (right)
'To speak about other managers you need to win the league. But it is not in my nature to be outspoken.'
It was suggested that Martinez claimed Ferguson had faithful followers in Bruce and Allardyce while Benitez was the target of constant sniping.
THE AS Q&A INTERVIEWQ: Does Ferguson have as much power as Benitez says?A:Yes, very much so. He has spent his whole life here and that counts forsomething. They have just charged him for accusing a referee of notbeing fit enough and the truth is that they almost were apologising forit. They would have crushed anyone else. Ferguson has a group ofmanagers who are faithful to him. Steve Bruce, who played for him; SamAllardyce, who think he will be his successor at Old Trafford andothers. On the other side you have just Benitez and they are all givinghim such a hard time. Spanish speakers judge for yourself - click here to read the full Q&A transcript - it's 1,300 words long and has been on the AS website since Sunday. Only now has Martinez taken issue with it.Martinez said: 'I have the utmost respect for Sir Alex Ferguson, Sam Allardyce, Steve Bruce and Rafael Benitez.
'Sir Alex is probably the best manager in the world while Steve has worked under him and we have a good relationship as he worked at Wigan before me.
'As for Sam I respect his achievements and what he has done in thePremier League. I also respect Rafa as he is one of the most successfulSpanish managers ever.'
Martinez added: 'It is important they allknow I was very disappointed with the stories that were circulating. Itis a very unfortunate situation but people need to understand whathappened.'
Man in the middle: Martinez's fellow Spaniard benitez
Martinez makes calls to calm the storm after his amazing attack on FergusonBruce prepares to raid former club Wigan for £5m defender FigueroaLiverpool boss Rafa Benitez in frame to replace Manuel Pellegrini at Real MadridSir Alex Ferguson lost top spot at Liverpool and is now public enemy No 1 with referees, but let's remember that he is . STILL THE GREATESTMANCHESTER UNITED FC