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Sir Alex Ferguson urged fans to look beyond Cristiano Ronaldo's headline-grabbing performance in the 3-1 win at Arsenal FC that sent Manchester United FC to the UEFA Champions League final. A goal up after the first leg, the reigning European champions killed Arsenal's hopes with goals inisde the first eleven minutes from Ji-Sung Park and Ronaldo, setting up what Arsène Wenger called "the most disappointing night" of his career. Ronaldo compounded his misery with a glorious third goal, though Sir Alex felt his side were not outshone by the prodigious goalscorer.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager
We had a good start to the game and that makes a difference. Two quick goals knocked the wind out their sails. They are a young team and whatever level you are playing at you can't recover from that. From the club's point of view, I have said many times we should have won this competition more than we have: We have the quality. When the chips are down [this team] don't let me down. The third goal was great and the speed of the play was fantastic. Good players will always be judged on their performances, ability and belief but the good thing tonight was they played with each other; they all played their part. Ronaldo made the difference but if you looked back at the game, at the movement of Park and the running of Fletcher, you have to ask: 'Who was the Man of the Match?'
Is the gulf between United and Arsenal widening? I think we are at our strongest at the moment and Arsenal have one or two injury problems and that has been a key issue for them. We will look at Arsenal at the start of next season as one of our big threats. I know exactly how Arsène Wenger feels. When you work as hard as he has and have been there as long as he has been you deserve success. The problem for Arsène and myself is the longer you have been in the game the more labels you have attached to you. It is success or failure. If you win you are the greatest; if you don't you're useless. I don't think you have to win the European Cup to be a great manager, but unfortunately the media do.
I watched Barcelona on Saturday and they were absolutely fantastic – they could have scored ten, but they go to Chelsea without Carles Puyol and Rafael Márquez and that's a big problem for them. If you ask me who I want to play in the final, neither of them – I think we should have a bye!
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
The most difficult thing was that we do not feel we played a Champions League semi-final because we were out of it after ten minutes. The game was over before it started and that is the most difficult thing to swallow. We can only look at ourselves. It is very disappointing to fight such a long way to get here and then give the game away like we did. We were ready for a game but after ten minutes it was impossible. We kept going and did as much as we could, played with pride and desire but some part of the belief was gone. Its part of football what happened tonight. You don't plan it but we have to stand up to it and finish the season well and respond on Sunday against Chelsea.
Man United deserved to go through over the two games. They were the better side and good luck in the final. Was it one of the most disappointing nights of my career? It is the most disappointing because the fans were really up for a big night and to disappoint people who really stand behind the team hurts. It's easy to say we lack maybe a bit of experience but I'm convinced we have the quality; we will continue to develop and the average age of the team is still very young and to reach that level still deserves a lot of credit.
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