Rangers FC manager Alex McLeish was frustrated as his "unlucky" side lost to an early Manchester United FC goal.
By Alex O'Henley in Glasgow
Rangers FC manager Alex McLeish was left to rue a catalogue of missed chances as his side narrowly lost this Group E encounter against Manchester United FC at Ibrox. Although United went 1-0 up after just five minutes through Phil Neville, Rangers were never out of contention and had numerous chances.
'We were unlucky'
"I thought we were unlucky not to take a point," said McLeish. "It is not often a team creates six or seven chances against Manchester United, the champions of England. We started well but it was a travesty to go behind, especially the way we did. Craig Moore is very disappointed at his part in the goal, but you get punished for mistakes at this level and that is what happened tonight."
Rangers set out to stifle United by pushing Fernando Ricksen into central midfield and far from knocking their confidence, the loss of an early goal appeared to galvanise the home team. Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson felt the goal had an unsettling effect on his players.
'Scored too early'
"If anything we scored too early," Sir Alex said. "We sat back after that, but in the second half we got our tempo back and we were much better. It was a great game and the atmosphere was fantastic. Rangers gave everything and Alex McLeish can be very pleased with the way they played."
Neville said it was the most important goal he had scored for his club. "To score early was just what we needed," he said. "We silenced the crowd and that was important. I was initially looking to play in Ryan Giggs but it opened up for me. A couple of Rangers players came across but I managed to continue my run and stick it away. It's the biggest goal I've scored for United, but the important thing is that we got the points. I thought our two centre halves and the goalkeeper were absolutely outstanding."
But nothing could hide the frustration of the home players. Paolo Vanoli passed up the best chance just before the half-hour mark, missing from six metres. "We missed a lot of chances," said Mikel Arteta. "However, it's no disgrace to lose to a team like Manchester United. Now we know we have to go away from home, score some goals and win a game to have a chance of going through."
Praise for Giggs
Rangers defender Zurab Khizanishvili was impressed with his opponent on the night, the Welsh winger Ryan Giggs. "I've played against some pretty special players," said the 22-year-old Georgian, "including the likes of [Alessandro] Del Piero and now Ruud van Nistelrooij, but this guy is even better than they are. It was a stupid goal to lose. The boys are devastated in the dressing room but we will learn from this."
The result means that Rangers drop to third place in Group E, while United move to second behind VfB Stuttgart - 2-0 winners against Panathinaikos FC tonight - by virtue of the clubs' head-to-head record. Rangers and United now meet in Manchester on 4 November, with another tight encounter a distinct possibility.