'Hurt' Wenger feels the pain as United march on

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Arsenal torn apart as Ferguson’s men reach Champions League final

A third Champions League trophy is within his grasp, but Sir Alex Ferguson's joy was tempered by what he described as the "tragedy" of Darren Fletcher missing the final in Rome on 27 May after a night which Arsène Wenger described as the most disappointing of his 25 years in management.

Fletcher's red card for what looked like a fair 75th-minute challenge on Cesc Fabregas is unlikely to be rescinded and his manager did what little he could to console the midfielder. "He's really disappointed, and he is entitled to be," Ferguson said. "He's one of the most honest players in the game and for him to miss the final will be a tragedy." But the most substantial grief, on a night when Cristiano Ronaldo mesmerised Arsenal's defence in a centre-forward's role, belonged to Wenger. The 3-1 defeat to United ends Arsenal's season – and in a manner which reveals the mountain he has to climb to reach the highest level in European football. "It's the most disappointing night," the Frenchman said. "To disappoint those people [the fans], who were behind the team so much, really hurts. We were caught by a team who have the art to kill you and take advantage of every mistake you make."

Arsenal's night was over in the 11 minutes it took United to score twice, through Ji-sung Park, capitalising on a slip by Kieran Gibbs, and Ronaldo, dispatching a 41-yard free kick. After the second goal a bottle thrown from the crowd appeared to hit Nemanja Vidic. Ronaldo's performance was extraordinary, even by his own standards. "We didn't feel we played the semi-final because we were out of it in 10 minutes. That's the most difficult thing to swallow," reflected Wenger, whose side's inferiority was underlined by the masterful seven-touch, box-to-box move which saw Ronaldo sweep in an imperious third on 61 minutes. "We can only look at ourselves. It's very, very disappointing to fight such a long way and give the game away as we did."

Ferguson declared that Fletcher's dismissal could not be appealed and the only way of it being rescinded is the Italian referee Roberto Rosetti informing Uefa that he made an error, though there was uncertainty last night as to whether even that could prevent the player, an unused substitute in last year's final in Moscow, experiencing the same ordeal that United's Roy Keane and Paul Scholes went through in 1999.

Fletcher appeared to get the heel of his boot to the ball which had been spun into Fabregas' path by Robin van Persie. "You can see the ball move in a different direction and angle from Cesc Fabregas," Ferguson said. "The terrible thing is that we can't appeal. Mr Rosetti is probably one of the best referees in Europe. He may look at it and come to his own view, but there's nothing we can do about it. I couldn't tell you whether he would have definitely played in the final but you would have thought that Darren would have figured largely." Ferguson has expressed his respect for the referee before and said he had not discussed the incident with him. "Out of respect to the referee, I wouldn't do that. He may look at himself without anyone asking but I don't think we should ask him. He's competent and fair enough to look at it himself, possibly."

Even Wenger admitted that he thought the decision, which allowed Van Persie to dispatch the 76th penalty for a 4-1 aggregate score, was "harsh" and it contributed to his view that Rosetti, a hospital manager from Turin, had "a bad game".

The Arsenal manager did not send out Gibbs for the second half after the 8th-minute error which will haunt the 19-year-old Londoner. "We don't want to blame anyone. Things are like that," he said.

Ferguson believes that Chelsea will overcome Barcelona at Stamford Bridge tonight, with the key factor being the absence of experienced defenders Carles Puyol, who is suspended, and Rafael Marquez, who is injured.

"I was drooling when I watched [Barcelona] on Saturday night [when they beat Real Madrid 6-2 at the Bernabeu]," Ferguson said. "But they have a centre-back problem and that may cost them. I think Chelsea will get through."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
News
videoJapanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

News
The Bounceway, designed by Architecture for Humanity
newsLondon to add 'The Bounceway' to commuting options
Life and Style
Stefan Gates with some mince flies
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
tech
Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital