Josep Guardiola could barely contain his delight as he was applauded both in and out of the news conference that followed FC Barcelona’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League final. “We’re not the best team in Barça history but we’ve had the best season,” he said of his treble winners. Although Sir Alex Ferguson “expected better” from the holders, he paid tribute to the victors’ stylish football and admitted “the better team won”.
I’m leaving [the job] straight away tomorrow – I can’t[ad#ijo] do anything to top this … We’re very happy, delirious. We’re aware that we’ve done something magnificent. I’d like to congratulate the whole club and the fans. We’re not the best team in Barça history but we’ve had the best season. We’ve won three trophies but it’s also about how we’ve won them. As a player it was great to win this trophy for the first time. Now we have three which isn’t as many as other clubs but we’re getting closer to a select group of mythical teams. I’ve said many times that we’re fortunate to have the legacy of Johan Cruyff and Charlie Rexach. They were the fathers and we’ve followed them.
At the beginning of the game we didn’t expect Manchester United to press so high. They caused us problems and we have to admit they had a great chance to score from Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick [in the second minute]. We scored with our first chance and then tried to move the ball inside. In the semi-final last year we noticed Messi had problems with Evra so we decided to move Leo from out wide to have one more player in midfield. He’s the best right now and has written his name on the Ballon d’Or. Messi has a real talent and will never hide – when the going gets tough he really gets going.
I have to process my emotions now as we’ve done something wonderful. We’re not a tall side and have defended without a few regular players but we attacked and defended well against the best team in the world. Give me a few days to rest and then I’ll tell you how I’m going to tackle next year. I just want to play well and be back here again. You can play badly and still win, but if you are daring and attack you have a better chance of winning – there’s nothing more dangerous than not taking a risk. You can enjoy a victory but with time you enjoy it even more. Tomorrow we will celebrate with Catalonia.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager
There’s disappointment at the performance, and some individuals will feel that themselves. Our best performances this season have been when we’ve defended very well and tonight it was shoddy – the first goal in particular which gave them a great boost. We didn’t plan to concede a goal as early as that. You have to give credit to a very good Barcelona team – the better team won. When they get in front of you they keep the ball, and after the opening goal all the midfielders closed in and kept possession, making it very difficult to get it back.
We’ve done well to get to a final but had to win it to change the pattern of teams defending the trophy. It was a big opportunity for us and with our players I expected better, but we couldn’t recover from losing the first goal. We knew before the game what a good footballing team they are. Last year we had no difficulty defending against them, tonight we did after the first goal as Messi dropped into midfield and made it difficult for us. They have to be one of the best teams we’ve played, at what they do. They have fantastic possession of the ball and credit to them as they pursue their philosophy and don’t change.
I’ve been quite pleased with the maturity of the team. Tonight the disappointment was the use of the ball when we had possession. We had to wait minutes to get it back and when we did we weren’t good enough. It could be an off night, or could be that we found the mountain too big to climb after being a goal down. It’s a great achievement in [Guardiola’s] first year as coach so well done … fantastic. All his players want to play, keep the ball, and enjoy their football, so all credit to him.
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