Phil Jones told UEFA.com Manchester United FC "more than held our own" for long spells against FC Bayern München, while Chris Smalling also drew positives from their 3-1 loss.
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Phil Jones said he was "gutted" at Manchester United FC's exit from the UEFA Champions League but that the team could bow out of the competition with heads held high after containing FC Bayern München for long periods prior to losing 3-1 in their quarter-final second leg and 4-2 on aggregate.
Patrice Evra gave United the lead but Bayern swiftly fought back. The 22-year-old Jones explained to UEFA.com how United had attempted to force Bayern out wide and did so with success until Mario Mandžukić's headed equaliser paved the way for an ultimately comfortable aggregate triumph for the hosts. Darren Fletcher and Chris Smalling also drew on the positives by pointing out the number of chances United created, but all three were left ruing their side's inability to retain their initial advantage.
Phil Jones, Manchester United defender
We're gutted. We thought we stuck to the game plan and kept in the game right from the word go. They really found it hard to break us down and it was working perfectly. Pat [Evra] scored a thunderbolt of a goal and we were thinking we were well on our way.
To concede so quickly was a massive blow. We at least hoped to hold out for five to ten minutes, but the second goal went in. We were still in it then and Wazza [Wayne Rooney] had a chance when it was 1-1 – if that had gone in it might have been a different game. Those are the big moments in games like these and unfortunately they caught us on the counterattack and got the third. By no means were we a disgrace tonight. We more than held our own.
They dominate the centre of the park, get men on the ball, crowd the centre and try to play through you, so we tried to force them out wide and for the majority of the game it worked.
Bayern can [become the first team to succesfully defend the UEFA Champions League]. They're a top team, there's no two ways about it. They've got some fantastic individuals in the side and on their day they can beat anyone. I'm sure they'll make it to the final and I wish them all the best.
Darren Fletcher, Manchester United midfielder
I suppose it's disappointing because we created some good chances tonight and we're disappointed not to have scored one more goal at least. Taking the lead and then conceding straight away is something I'm sure people will talk about and that's the disappointing thing from my point of view tonight. You always expect a reaction from a good team like Bayern, but we always try and hold on for five minutes – and we didn't even do it for a minute.
After that we were still in the tie. We created a few chances. Unfortunately we didn't take them, but they're a top side and that's the level you need to get to if you want to achieve success in the Champions League. I don't think we are miles off. It's small margins in big games and we've seen that tonight. We've got a lot of quality in our squad and we showed that over the two legs.
This is the pinnacle of club football and Manchester United need to be in this competition. Unfortunately we haven’t managed it and we won’t be there next year, so next season's a big one. We're not thinking about just getting into the Champions League, we're thinking about winning the league and getting in on the back of that.
Chris Smalling, Manchester United defender
We always felt we were in with a chance because Wazza and Wels [Danny Welbeck] are always going to get at least one or two opportunities. On another day they might have gone in.
You get a new sense of energy when you score and to concede straight away was a killer, especially from a cross. We'd been dealing with them so well, so that was disappointing.
[United manager David Moyes] spoke about missed opportunities and if only we'd taken our chances. We fought hard, though, and it was just disappointing with the timing of their goals and the way they came about.
We stood up well in both games and to be honest we probably had better chances than they did. Bayern had a lot of the ball and worked it well, perhaps better than we did, but it's about creating chances and I thought we did better there.