Ferguson left perplexed by Manchester United's wastefulness

Uncharacteristic inability to keep possession was at heart of defeat in Munich

Sometimes in defeat Sir Alex Ferguson is angry, sometimes he is phlegmatic.

On Tuesday night, after Manchester United's 2-1 loss to Bayern Munich, he seemed perplexed. For 15 years Ferguson has been drumming into his charges the need to keep possession in European football. Ever since the ill-fated 1994-95 campaign, when United were thrashed in Barcelona, beaten in Gothenberg and held at Galatasaray, Ferguson has instilled in his players the awareness that the Champions League is not the Premier League, if you give the ball away it does not come back immediately, especially away from home.

On Tuesday United gave it away continuously. Passes were over-hit, under-hit or mis-directed. Wrong options were chosen. Faced with Bayern's high-tempo pressing, United too often played the ball long to an isolated Wayne Rooney. "Right from minute one the possession wasn't to our standard," Ferguson said. "It's hard to explain because it is something we pride ourselves on."

There was an early incident which may have been influential, when United had tried to keep the ball and were nearly undone. Darren Fletcher, on the edge of his own box, played a tight pass square to Michael Carrick, who was not expecting it and swiftly played an even tighter ball, across goal, to Nemanja Vidic. He was mugged by Mark van Bommel who, fortunately for United, chose to pass rather than shoot and the attack broke down.

In the aftermath of the incident there was a lot of arm-waving and pointing from United players, as if to say, "We're ahead, don't take risks." However, with their defence pushed back it was near-impossible to keep possession without such gambles so they resorted to launching hopefully towards Rooney who, outnumbered, was too often judged to have fouled his opponent.

"We'd usually try and catch the opposition on the counter-attack but we didn't keep the ball anywhere near as well as we are capable of," Ryan Giggs said. "We gave the ball away far too cheaply."

Edwin van der Sar added: "Every time the ball went forward, and Wayne had a little nudge with the defender, the game got stopped. So we couldn't really get into our game."

The goalkeeper was one of the few United players to emerge with credit, making a string of saves. "I was busier than I usually am," he said. "I had a few shots to save. You would prefer to have a quieter night but that is what I get paid for. We had a great start but after that I don't think we played the football that we are normally capable of in Europe. We were quite comfortable in the first half but in the second I had a lot more to do.

"People's expectations of us are so high they were expecting us to win and that is OK. We share those high expectations. We should have done much better. Now we have to pick ourselves up and refocus for the game against Chelsea on Saturday."

While United will be without Rooney, Bayern hope to be back at full strength for the second leg next Wednesday. Arjen Robben should be restored to the team and their other recent injury victims, Franck Ribéry and Martin Demichelis, will be sharper for having played on Tuesday.

However, like United Bayern have a crucial match this weekend, at Schalke 04, the club who replaced them at the top of the Bundesliga last weekend. Robben is likely to play. "I think he could have played against United too, actually," admitted coach Louis van Gaal. "He trained on the day of the game and there was no problem."

Van Gaal was not taking Bayern's progress to the semi-finals, for the first time since lifting the trophy in 2001, for granted as United have an away goal, but he warned Ferguson his team were very capable of scoring away goals of their own.

"We have always scored away in the Champions League this season: Three at Haifa, one in Bordeaux, four against Juventus and two against Fiorentina. That is a lot of goals away from home so we can have a bit of faith."

But United's Fletcher insisted: "We fancy ourselves against anyone at Old Trafford. Bayern are a good side but after a disappointing result we always seem to respond."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before