Failure makes Ferguson more determined

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The Independent Football

Manchester United's failure to retain the European Cup may have been greeted with delight by their fiercest rivals but it might be their worst possible news.

United's 2-0 defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League final in Rome has merely strengthened manager Alex Ferguson's resolve to take his club back to the heights of the European game and achieve the success he craves.

Ferguson had spoken in the weeks leading up to the game how he wanted to secure United's place in the pantheon of Europe's great clubs like Real Madrid, Ajax Amsterdam and Bayern Munich by retaining the European Cup and starting his own cycle of European success.

Asked afterwards whether he still had the hunger to do that, the 67-year-old Scot turned on the questioner with a tirade few can equal and demanded an apology for the impertinence of the enquiry, which he duly got.

Ferguson went off into the Roman night devastated by the nature of United's defeat - but also thinking of how to improve things.

The loss was especially painful because for the first 10 minutes, until Barcelona scored, Ferguson could glimpse the mountain top.

United started the match far better than Barcelona and if they had carried on the same vein could have dominated the game and become the first team to retain the title in the Champions League era. Instead Barcelona scored first and took control.

Ferguson's attempts to change the outcome in the second half by bringing on Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes failed and before departing he admitted United were beaten by the better team.

"I think we've done well to get to final. We had to win it to change the pattern of the teams defending the trophy. Losing the first goal was decisive for us, we couldn't recover from that," he told reporters.

"It could be it was an off night, it could be it was too big a mountain to climb after going behind."

The absence of holding midfielder Darren Fletcher, who was suspended, also proved pivotal to the outcome because without him United failed to take a grip on the midfield.

More important than that though was the absence, in spirit if not in body, of some of United's usual match-winners like Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and even Cristiano Ronaldo, who failed to dominate Barcelona.

Ferguson spoke at length about his team have matured and developed this season after winning the Champions League last year, but on this evidence, new blood might be needed sooner rather than later.

There is little fuel left in the 35-year-olds Giggs's engine while Scholes, who replaced his fellow veteran after 75 minutes, also failed to make any impact.

Wednesday was a step too far for United this season, which has not exactly been a failure after winning the Club World Cup, Premier League and League Cup.

But that is not enough for Ferguson, which is why everyone else should be even more on their guard next season.

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