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Experience made the difference: Ferguson
Simon Evans | March 09, 2005 10:01 IST
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson believes AC Milan's greater experience was the deciding factor in his team's 2-0 aggregate defeat by the Italians in the Champions League first knockout round on Tuesday.
A 61st minute header from Hernan Crespo was all that separated the sides at the San Siro after Milan won the first leg 1-0 also with a goal by the Argentine forward.
"I think the difference between us was the greater experience of AC Milan -- particularly in Cafu, who I thought was the man of the tie," said Ferguson.
United's talented young forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney were kept under wraps by a defence led by 36-year-old Paolo Maldini -- one of three Milan defenders over 30.
"Sometimes our decision-making let us down. A lot of that comes down to experience," said Ferguson. "Look at the experience of Cafu and Maldini.
"There were occasions when our decision-making was a bit rash, when we shot from too far out when another touch would have been better," he added.
But the United manager said his side had not been far away from a victory in both legs of the tie.
"I don't think there was a lot between the two teams overall. There was a spell just after the break when Milan imposed themselves just as we had in the first half," said Ferguson, whose team hit the post before the break through Ryan Giggs.
"It was a high quality game played in a very good spirit. My hope was that we could score the goal that could change the game and we had a good chance with Ryan and who knows what could have happened after that.
"But that is what decides matches at this level. It is a very fine line," said the United manager, who pointed to two chances that Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, recently returned from injury, failed to take.
"There was maybe a lack of a sharpness. If he had a few more games under his belt it might have been different," said Ferguson.
"But I have no complaints with the level of the performance. We needed to score first, that was the key to it, they had that break when Ryan hit the post," he added.
Asked about United's failure to score once in 180 minutes against the Italian champions, Ferguson said: "It is disappointing. You have to take your chances at this level and if you don't you can't have any complaints.
"We had six outstanding chances over the two games. Milan had maybe a similar amount. Their ratio of taking chances was far better and that's the thin dividing line. There really wasn't much between the two teams.
However, the Scot was also fulsome in his praise of Carlo Ancelotti's side.
"Milan were very professional. They didn't dive, they played the game in a great spirit. I think they can go far in the competition if they continue that way," he said.