Sir Alex Ferguson: No one has given United a hiding like Barcelona did
Posted on May 29, 2011 by Marc Leprêtre
Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Barcelona as the strongest team he has confronted as a manager after the Catalans claimed their fourth European Cup at Manchester United‘s expense, although this chastening experience has not dented the Scot’s enthusiasm to attempt to overhaul “the best team in Europe”.
The Premier League champions suffered a sobering defeat here, the scoreline deceptive, with their manager conceding his own team had been outclassed by a rampant Barça. “They do mesmerise you with the way they pass it,” Ferguson said . “I expected us to do better, particularly after half-time, but it wasn’t to be. Great teams do go in cycles and they’re at the peak of the cycle they’re in at the moment.
“They’re the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they’re the best team we’ve faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It’s not easy when you’ve been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that. It’s a great moment for them. They deserve it because they play the right way and enjoy their football.
“But how long it lasts … whether they can replace that team at some point … they certainly have the right philosophy, but it’s always difficult to find players like Xavi [Hernández], [Andrés] Iniesta and [Lionel] Messi all the time. But they’re enjoying the moment that they have just now. We never controlled Lionel Messi, but many people have had to say that over the years.”
Xavi and Messi, in particular, revelled here, with Pep Guardiola thrilled by the Argentinian’s contribution, which included his first goal in England. “Lionel is the best player I have ever seen, probably the best player I will see,” the Barça coach said. “He is unique, a one-off. But this was a better performance than the one we put in to beat United in Rome [2-0 in 2009]. In Italy, we played a ‘good’ game. Tonight, it was the way in which we won that made me most proud. That is the way we want to play football.”
Ferguson, even at 69, insisted he retained the enthusiasm and energy to regain the European Cup and was relishing the task ahead. “The challenge is always to improve yourselves,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve done OK when confronted by things like this, and taking [Barcelona] on is another challenge. We’ve some very good players and, of course, where we start to find a way forward is something we’ll mull over the summer. We’re not lacking in ideas . Hopefully we’ll come up with the right ones.
“You shouldn’t be afraid of a challenge. We want to improve. Of course, next season, we must improve even more. But we have a challenge with Barcelona. We all do. It’s no consolation being the second-best team. I don’t enjoy being second-best. Any club with the history we have – Real Madrid, Milan – they’d say the same.”
The Scot offered his opposite number a warning that he should not be hasty in his desire to move on for his own fresh challenge – “If he’s really considering that, he’ll never have this experience again, that’s for sure” – although the Barcelona manager was insistent that he intends to see out another season at the Camp Nou before considering his options. “That is my intention,” he said. “My future, when I leave here, will be very tough because I will wonder where players like these Barcelona players are, and if I will have problems finding them. But I want to continue for one more year.”
Dominic Fifield, The Guardian