Ferguson hails his Manchester United heroes
ALEX FERGUSON hailed the fortitude of his Manchester United team as they faced up to the heartbreak of their defeat by Arsenal in Cardiff yesterday.
"There is a good character in this team," he declared. "I am proud of them - they did not deserve what they got today."
Ferguson admitted they had struggled in front of goal all season - a failing which returned to haunt them again yesterday. "I think we are a very good team but we have missed chances all season - the goolascoring has let us down," he added.
"It's always disappointing to lose games. In cup football, you need a break and we didn't get one. We've had luck in the past, so you understand it can happen. It's not a nice experience but it's one you have to accept."
However, Ferguson refused to be downcast, insisting that the future was bright with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, whom he described as "the star players," in their ranks.
The Scot denied that the team's free-flowing performance represented a moral victory after much of the pre-match publicity had predicted United would have to outmuscle the Gunners in order to win - a line out thought which Ferguson compared to the Manchurian Candidate, the Frank Sinatra film about Soviet brainwashing. However, he admitted that he would use such adversity as motivation for next campaign.
Ferguson suggested that Patrick Vieira could have been sent off. The Arsenal captain was booked near the end of extra-time for a tackle on Ronaldo and then escaped a second caution for another foul on Rooney. That prompted Ferguson, who also accused Arsenal of "boring" tactics and playing for penalties, to declare: "He could have maybe sent off Vieira.
"But Patrick seems to have an immunity to these kind of things so I'm not surprised. These games are very difficult for referees. Where do they start or stop?
"There were a lot of fouls and I don't think there were any really bad ones, although Reyes was perhaps a bit lucky not to be sent off for his tackle on Mikael Silvestre. You don't want to see players sent off in the final but referees are only human beings." Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also talked about the pride he felt in his team - even though they failed to produce their usual attacking football. "I am very proud because it was a difficult game," he said. "Offensively we didn't create - we played a bit more cautious.
"I feel Manchester United had a strong period in the second half. It is bad for the team that loses like that but it was a very intense game."
Wenger revealed that Arsenal had practised " a bit" before pointing out: "we don't score like that because of the practising."
Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira said: "You have to give credit to Manchester United but we showed fantastic character.
" We didn't have any power to go forward but we worked really hard. We didn't play our best game of the season but we kept our focus.
"The spirit we showed today, if we can keep it for next season it will be a fantastic for us."
Vieira admitted he was nervous as he stepped up to take what proved to be the cup-clinching penalty but insisted he relished the challenge.
"All the (Arsenal) players who went to take penalties in front of me did very well. I knew if I scored we would win the cup and so I concentrated on that. I was alright. There was pressure but I love those kind of moments."
Jans Lehmann, who made several fine saves to keep the Gunners in the match, was in modest mood afterwards, preferring to congratulate the Gunners' successful penalty takers.
"The guys have done fantastic to score all five penalties," he said. "It's a big mental achievement."
Thierry Henry, who missed the final through injury, said: "I said before game that we could do it and have done it.
"I feel for Manchester United because they played well. I know how they feel because we lost against Liverpool (in 2001) and did not deserve to lose. If your name is on the cup you win it."