Sir Alex Ferguson admits that while he is still gutted by Manchester United’s Champions League exit, he believes that United would have reached the final if they had managed to get through the group stage.
Fergie feels United missed an opportunity to reach their fourth final in five years, but admits they did not do enough to progress in their vital final group match away to Basel.
“It was a massive disappointment because my feeling is that if we’d gone through, we would have gone on to the final,” said the United manager. “For me, the problem was the home game against Basel. We were 2-0 up and then missed four or five clear-cut chances. We ended up losing our concentration and though we managed to salvage a draw, it was a bad result for us. It left us having to go and get at least a point in the return game. And though we dominated the match, we didn’t score, and when that happens, you don’t deserve to win.”
Ferguson says Barcelona remain the team to beat, but he insists that this latest United side, with its emphasis on youth, can compete with the Catalans.
“Barcelona are the best team in Europe – although Real Madrid [currently 10 points ahead of Barca at the top of the Spanish league] are closing the gap on them,” he said. “The lead they’ve got in the league shows that. They might be on the same level as them soon, but for the moment Barca have still got that magical ability to play a game that’s beyond everyone else. When Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are on song, they’re just unstoppable. I think we’ve got the ambition to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid and we decided a few years ago to create a structure with young players, like Wayne Rooney and Nani.
“All we’ve had to do since then is just build things around a few young players. So I don’t feel we’re that far away from Barcelona and Real Madrid. I’m sure we’ll show that soon.”