Sir Alex Ferguson claims Real Madrid were unable to deal with Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck

England striker opened the scoring at the Bernabeu

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The Independent Football

Danny Welbeck was too much for Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last night, according to Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Welbeck was England's top goal-scorer in 2012 but has only hit the net once this season for United.

However, the 22-year-old striker consistently got the better of Madrid's Sergio Rmaos in the first half and headed home the opening goal.

Welbeck's goal proved to be the crescendo of a fantastic display, despite such a fall down the pecking order that the English forward was linked with a loan move to Reading before the transfer window opened.

Ferguson gave credit where it was due and praised the striker's performance.

"He was marvellous," said Ferguson. "It is a pity he got cramp at the end of game, but he worked so hard.

"It was only second goal of season. We expected more, but he is young.

"They found it difficult to handle him."

United goalkeeper David de Gea, who found himself receiving heavy criticism of late after being found at fault for Tottenham's equaliser last week, was also praised for an exceptional evening between the goalposts.

"De Gea was excellent," Ferguson said. "He made three or four top saves.

"He has been improving all season.

"There was one save in the first half which he touched onto the post (from Coentrao) which was superb.

"I am pleased for him. He is an Atletico boy playing here in Madrid, but he has done well."

Ferguson also revealed that captain Nemanja Vidic was left out due to the rescheduling of the Everton match.

"If we had played on the Saturday, the extra day would have suited me, but he plays one game every eight or nine days and still has to manage his comeback from injury," said Ferguson.

"Rio is exactly the same, and the type of game on Sunday suited Vidic more."

United know the advantage now lies with them after ensuring at least one away goal.

However, their position ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford on March 5 would have looked even more rosy had Robin van Persie been able to snaffle a golden opportunity in the second half, when he completely mistimed a volley, allowing Xabi Alonso to clear off the line.

Robin van Persie could have put United in even better standing in the second half when he mistimed a volley, allowing Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso to clear the ball off the line.

"We kept making chances and hopefully we don't regret that," said Ferguson.

"The away goal is important, but it's not finished.

"Real are a fantastic counter attacking team and I look forward to it."