Football / European Champions' League: Ferguson takes heart from latest European lesson

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The Independent Online
ALEX FERGUSON, the Manchester United manager, was denied the home victory he had wanted against Barcelona last night but nevertheless was satisfied with a result that kept his team at the top of Group A in the Champions' League.

'It's a good point when you're 2-1 down with 15 minutes remaining,' he said.

'You need a break and we got one but I think we deserved it. We gave away two bad goals but we went for their throats and it paid off. The match was a wonderful advert for European football.

'Both Gothenberg and ourselves have to go to Barcelona and I think those matches will prove crucial as to who will qualify for the knockout stages.

We're capable of getting a result in Spain and I think tonight's match proved it. We always looked capable of scoring.'

Ferguson provided a contentious talking point before the match started by choosing to leave out the club captain, Steve Bruce, in favour of Paul Parker, who will go into hospital in the next few days for an operation on an ankle injury that has restricted the England defender's apearances this season.

Bruce, who came on as a substitute when David May was injured, revealed that Ferguson had taken him on one side on Tuesday to tell him he was being excluded. 'I was disappointed, naturally,' he said, 'but the manager said he had done it for tactical reasons and I have to accept that.'

Ferguson added: 'I felt we needed some extra pace in the centre of the defence to counter the threat of Romario and Stoichkov. Paul Parker is probably the only British player with the ability to shut out players completely with his marking. I think that was proved again.'

Nevertheless the Brazilian World Cup striker still managed to slip his marker's clutches to score after 34 minutes, leading the United manager to fear his team's relative European inexperience might prove costly.

'When he scored I thought, 'how many lessons are we going to have to learn?'

' Ferguson said. 'I told the players at half-time that they had won the match once and they could go out and do it again. The second goal changed that, however, and in the end it required tremendous fighting qualities. At 2-1 down we needed a player who could lead by example and Paul Ince provided that. I thought he was magnificent.'