'These two games have been absolutely fantastic for football'

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The Independent Football

Alex Inglethorpe, the Exeter City manager, declared himself proud of his team after their FA Cup adventure ended with a 2-0 defeat.

Alex Inglethorpe, the Exeter City manager, declared himself proud of his team after their FA Cup adventure ended with a 2-0 defeat.

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the visitors a ninth-minute lead but United did not find a second to kill off the Conference club's brave resistance until just before the end when Wayne Rooney slotted home.

But the disappointment of defeat did not diminish Inglethorpe's pride. "I'm very proud of the team," he said. "After conceding an early goal it would have been easy to fear the worst but we showed we could be solid and kept going, which was important.

"It was a one-off game and there was little consolation going out, be it 1-0 or 2-0, so taking risks was part of it."

Sean Devine had Exeter's best chance in the second half and his manager continued: "We didn't have many chances in the game, so it was important to take the ones we got.

"Sean Devine is a great player and he'll score plenty more - it's just a shame it didn't go in."

Inglethorpe was also delighted for goalkeeper Paul Jones, who kept United's strikers at bay for much of the game.

He added: "I think his price might have risen tonight, but he's young and he's still learning. The whole experience is good for him and everyone at the club."

The Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was full of praise for Exeter's performance and added that he thought it could provide the impetus to get the West Country club back into the Football League.

"These two games have been absolutely fantastic, not just for Exeter but for football as a whole," Ferguson said. "I was listening to the radio this morning and all the talk was about Exeter City. It is just brilliant for them. It was a big drop when they went out of the Football League and fell into the Conference, but maybe these games can help lift them back up again."

Ferguson admitted his side had to withstand periods of intense pressure, although he did state he was "never worried", as the hosts carved out a series of half-chances.

But at least, unlike Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City, he knows his side are still in the competition.

"There is no point saying we were brilliant or anything like that," he said. "We missed too many chances. We could have won by more and at 1-0 they always felt they had a chance.

"We all watched the Liverpool game last night and that was a reminder to everyone of what can happen in Cup football. I guess this was another one."

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