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Both wingers failed to make the bench for the clash at the Bernabeu in midweek as Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Danny Welbeck’s header to leave the tie in the balance ahead of the return leg at Old Trafford.
"There were a lot of disappointed players,” Sir Alex told the Daily Express.
"Nani and Ashley Young - international footballers - I found it hard to explain to them I was leaving them out."
Another player to miss out on the last-16 tie was Chicharito, who was an unused substitute as Sir Alex opted to play an attacking trio of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Welbeck.
But the 71-year-old says chances will come for the striker, who has impressed this season.
He added: "I explained to Chicharito that Robin van Persie is our main striker and we wanted someone to join in from a deeper position.
"Whenever Chicharito plays, he delivers. He has 14 goals, he will score more than 20 and will have opportunities."