Red Devils' manager is disappointed with his side's performance but admits that the Premier League champions were beaten by the better side at Wembley on Saturday evening
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson conceded that his side had lost to Europe’s best side as Barcelona beat the Reds 3-1 in the Uefa Champions League final at Wembley.
And the Scot admitted his side were second best throughout the game but praised his opponents rather than criticising his own players.
“[We were] well beaten, there’s no other way to address the situation,” he told reporters.
“[We were] beaten by a fantastic team of course, but I expected us to do better and I think at the end of the day we’ll just acknowledge that we were beaten by the better team.
“We knew that before the game and planned the best we could - our training sessions were very good leading up to this game.”
Barcelona took the lead through Pedro after a wonderful run from Xavi but United levelled the game before half time as Wayne Rooney scored a fantastic strike in the 34th minute. However, United were unable to get a foot into the game in the second half as the Catalans dominated possession and scored twice through Lionel Messi and David Villa to lift the Champions League trophy for the fourth time in their history.
“They do mesmerise you with their passing and we never really controlled Messi, although many people have said that in the past,” Ferguson continued.
“I think when we got the lifeline through Wayne Rooney, I expected us to do better in the second half, but it wasn't to be.”
It is the second time in three years that United have lost a Champions League final to Barcelona and Ferguson admitted that Pep Guardiola’s side were better now than two years ago, and were probably the best side he has ever faced.
“I think they’re the best team we’ve played,” he admitted.
“They’re at a tremendous peak in their cycle of their team and you get teams who elevate themselves to that status and I think Barcelona are that team.
“I think we expected to do better, but that’s all I’m saying right.”
The influential Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Messi controlled the game for the Catalans, and with Xavi the only player over 30 Guardiola’s side could go onto to dominate European football for years to come, and Ferguson cited the attitude throughout the club that could stand them in good stead.
“[Dominating European football] depends on how well they can replace that team at another point - they certainly have the philosophy,” he said.
“It's always difficult to find players like Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all the time, so probably not.
“But they are enjoying the moment they are having right now.”
Despite defeat Ferguson hailed the success his side had achieved this season but admitted to defeats at the home of English football had left a sour taste in his mouth now the campaign had come to an end.
“It’s been a great season in many ways,” he said.
“We’re just disappointed we’ve come to Wembley twice and been beaten.
“The [FA Cup] semi-final against Manchester City and [now] the final of the European Cup.
“It’s a fantastic stage and we just disappointed its ended on a disappointing note.”
And the Scot spoke of his pride at the strides his side have made this season and hoped that they would push on next season and continue to challenge on all fronts, but he continued to praise Barcelona’s efforts.
“I think that there’s good evidence we’re a consistently good European team,” he added.
“I think our record this season has been excellent, we’ve won really important games but tonight we were beaten by definitely the best team in Europe.
“There’s no shame in that, from time to time you come against a team that’s far better than you and tonight was that night.”
The match saw goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar make the final appearance of his career but Ferguson revealed the future of midfielder Paul Scholes was still uncertain, and admitted he was hoping to have his future sorted out in the coming days.
“I’ve had discussions with Paul [Scholes],” he revealed.
“He’s not made his mind up [whether to play on or not] but we’ll talk in the next few days.”