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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Man Utd lack maturity
By Howard Nurse
BBC Sport football editor in Milan

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson believes his team still need to grow up together
Another Champions League campaign is over for Manchester United - and there can be no excuses.

United's Milan mauling saw them tumble out of the competition at the penultimate hurdle 3-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, was understandably downbeat during his 15-minute press briefing in the bowels of the San Siro stadium.

He generously applauded Milan's enterprise, fitness and professionalism and was gracious in defeat.

Ferguson's respect for Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti meant he did not stoop low enough to mention the fact that Milan were originally thrown out of the Champions League after the probe into match-fixing in Serie A last July.

Uefa later back-tracked and allowed Milan to take part in the money-spinning tournament after an appeal.

606: DEBATE

They can now look forward to facing Liverpool in Athens on 23 May and in their current form, many neutrals will tip them to gain revenge on the Reds following the astonishing 2005 final which ended with the European Cup back at Anfield.

For United, it's a case of dusting themselves down and finding the energy to mount a League and FA Cup Double.

UNITED AWAY IN EUROPE
SEASON 2004/05
DREW 2-2 at Lyon
DREW 0-0 at Sparta
LOST 3-0 at Fenerbache
LOST 1-0 at AC Milan

SEASON 2005/06
DREW 0-0 with Villarreal
LOST 1-0 to Lille
LOST 2-1 to Benfica

SEASON 2006/07
WON 1-0 at Benfica
LOST 1-0 at FC Copenhagen
LOST 1-0 at Celtic
WON 1-0 at Lille
LOST 2-1 at Roma
LOST 3-0 at AC Milan

AC Milan beat United 1-0 both home and away on their way to the final two years ago - results that prompted Ferguson to conclude his young team was not mature enough to prosper on the European stage.

He was asked the same question again on Wednesday by an Italian journalist who politely asked what United's excuse for failing was this time round.

Ferguson reiterated several times that AC Milan had grown up together in recent years and in the likes of Clarence Seedorf have more know-how on the biggest of stages.

"My team lack the type of experience AC Milan have gained. That type of experience can't be dismissed. We have to keep the team together and grow the team like Milan have done," insisted the United boss.

United have not been convincing away from home for several years in Europe now. You have to go back to the Ryan Giggs-inspired win in Juventus four years ago for the last time United really impressed away from Old Trafford in the competition.

That isn't good enough and at least the signs of improvement have been present this season, though Cristiano Ronaldo in particular was below par against Milan.

Ryan Giggs
A tired Giggs was not able to inspire United in difficult conditions
What United do need is more depth to their squad and Ferguson needs to halt the recent slump in form of defender Gabriel Heinze who was all at sea in the San Siro.

Challenging on more than two fronts has cost United and Chelsea dear this week.

Ferguson is unhappy with the lack of help from the Premier League but he refused to blame their exit entirely on their busy schedule.

He added: "We have a very tough league in England and we have been using the same set of players over and over again in the last few weeks, but I can't be categoric about whether that's the reason for the defeat.

"We should be coping better. We cut our own throats and I have no complaints."

United must overcome these growing pains quickly if they are to reward Ferguson with a second European Cup before he steps down from the Old Trafford hot seat.

Perhaps the expected introduction of Owen Hargreaves next season will give United more nous and solidity when they most need it.



SEE ALSO
Ferguson attacks Premier League
03 May 07 |  Man Utd
AC Milan 3-0 Man Utd (Agg: 5-3)
02 May 07 |  Europe
Jan Molby's Euro verdict
02 May 07 |  Europe
Champions League photos
02 May 07 |  Football
Man Utd 3-2 AC Milan
24 Apr 07 |  Europe


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