Alex Ferguson regrets picking such young side as Manchester United lose to Ajax at Old Trafford
Published 24/02/2012 | 10:12
MANCHESTER United manager Sir Alex Ferguson conceded a lack of experience almost condemned his side to an embarrassing Europa League exit at Old Trafford last night
With their last-32 tie with Ajax virtually wrapped up in Amsterdam last week, Ferguson fielded a youthful line-up at Old Trafford.
But despite Javier Hernandez scoring for the fourth consecutive game, United failed to build on their advantage and Ajax goals either side of the interval completed a 2-1 win for the Dutch giants that left them just a goal away from advancing to a meeting with Athletic Bilbao.
"It was a nervy night," said Ferguson.
"I thought with a 2-0 lead it was a great opportunity to give Chris Smalling and Phil Jones a game because they have been out for such a long time.
"They have great potential but the lack of experience in terms of tying up the game created a problem for us.
"For a European night it was too much of a risk."
Ferguson admitted he bore responsibility and, on the plus side, Jones, Smalling and Tom Cleverley - all watched by Stuart Pearce who has named the trio in his England squad to face Holland at Wembley next week - gained valuable match practice after significant lay-offs which should help United over the coming weeks.
However, Ferguson knows his side will have to improve significantly if they are to overcome their next opponents, who are battling strongly in La Liga and could yet secure a Champions League berth next season.
"The experienced players will play in that one," said Ferguson.
The United boss also confirmed Wayne Rooney remains a doubt for Sunday's trip to Carrow Road as he struggles to shake off a throat infection.
Rooney's presence was missed this evening with Ajax coach Frank de Boer admitting his side had blown a glorious opportunity.
"I had a feeling there was more to gain," he said.
"There was a possibility for us to get a very good result. Even at 3-0 I thought if we did what we were capable of, we could threaten them.
"I was very angry at half-time and whilst we did better in the second half, we could have caused them much more damage.
"Of course, Manchester United have the possibility to win the Europa League now. There are some good teams in it but they are one of the favourites."