May 28, 2009

Dejected Ferguson admits "the best team won"

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United lost to the better side as Barcelona secured the Champions League crown in Rome, but he vowed to come back even stronger.

United were bright in the initial exchanges but after Samuel Eto'o opened the scoring after 10 minutes, there was only one team in the game as Barca over-ran their opponents in midfield.

Lionel Messi made it 2-0 after 70 minutes and the Red Devils could muster nothing in response.

Ferguson told Sky Sports 1: "In fairness we were beaten by the best team. We weren't at our best. The first goal was a killer, it was a bad start to the game. If you give them the ball they will keep it all night.

"But the best part of the game is that in adversity you always move forward quicker. We're all disappointed but we're a young team.''

Ferguson added a second striker at half-time, with Carlos Tevez replacing the ineffective Anderson.

Reflecting on that decision, the Scot said: "I brought on Tevez simply because I took the gamble of playing two through (the middle). Ryan Giggs, in the first half, provided something and some parts of his game were good but what we needed was someone to be there all the time.

"But they defended quite well. We had plenty of time and we had some half-chances which we maybe should have done better with.''

Ferguson claimed he was not surprised with the way Barcelona approached the game, even when they swapped Messi from a wide position up front into midfield.

And he put the blame for the loss squarely on his own players.

Ferguson said: "The disappointment was the use of the ball when we got possession. You have to wait minutes to get it back off them. Could be it was an off night. Could be it was a mountain too big to climb.

"We knew what a good football team they were. We had difficulty in defending against them. Messi dropped into midfield and they kept possession and made it difficult for us.''

Cristiano Ronaldo collected a yellow card for a foul on Puyol and it was a disappointing match for the United winger who went close with a couple of long-range shots but too often let his exasperation get the better of him.

Ferguson also admitted United missed the protective presence of Darren Fletcher in midfield who was suspended after being sent off harshly against Arsenal in the semi-final.

"He is one big-game player,'' said Ferguson. "It was a loss but they had losses also. And it is difficult to measure how big a loss it was.

"We've done well to get to the final, but we had to win it. It was a big opportunity for us. With the players we have we expected better, but losing the first goal was decisive for us. We couldn't recover from that.''

Ferguson, however, was generous in his praise of Barcelona and their manager, Pep Guardiola, who also won the Champions League as a player with Barcelona.

"You have to give credit to a very good Barcelona team,'' said Ferguson. "If they get in front of you they are very difficult to beat. They kept possession of the ball and made it very difficult to get back.

"When we did get possession we didn't do well with it. Credit to them, the better team won.''

On Guardiola, who has guided Barcelona to a treble of league title, domestic Cup and Champions League, he added: "It is a great achievement as a coach in his first year. Well done. Fantastic. Everybody enjoys their football and it is great credit to him.''

Veteran United midfielder Ryan Giggs admitted they did not play to their potential and that they were beaten by the better team.

"At times Barcelona can make you look silly because they keep the ball so well,'' Giggs told Sky Sports News. "At times we maybe chased it and didn't keep our shape as well as we should have. But still - we created chances and probably more chances than Barcelona.

"We said whoever turned up on the night would win and that proved to be the case. They turned up and played some great football - we didn't really. I think if we had gone a goal ahead, we're capable of keeping the ball like they are. But credit to them, they deserved it tonight.''