FOOTBALL NEWS

28/05/2011 22:54, Report by Adam Bostock
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Berba absence explained

Dimitar Berbatov was the fall guy of Sir Alex Ferguson's most difficult decision at Wembley - how to fill his bench.

The Bulgarian striker was the most notable absentee from United's matchday squad for the Champions League final against Barcelona. In his post-match press conference, Sir Alex explained why Michael Owen, among others, had been selected in preference.

"It was a difficult decision tonight. I found picking my team easy but picking my subs I found very, very difficult," said Sir Alex.

The Reds' seven substitutes were striker Owen, goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak, defender Chris Smalling, winger Nani and three central midfielders in Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes. Only Nani, for Fabio, and Scholes, replacing Michael Carrick, came on during the 3-1 defeat.

Sir Alex admitted: "I tended to overload [the bench] with midfielders because I thought that was the area that was most important in terms of the way Barcelona play and the work you need to do in that central area.

"I gambled by selecting only one defender to allow me to give me as many options in midfield and the wide position with Nani.

"So it came down to a choice between Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov [as the substitute striker]. My view on that was if you're looking for someone to nick a goal in the last few minutes of a game, then Owen's experience is I think why I took that decision."

When asked by the same reporter whether he regretted his approach to the game, Sir Alex said:

"I think we tried to play as near to the way we normally play. I think it would have been alien for us to, for example, manmark players and things like that. We tried to play our normal way as best we could. It wasn't good enough on the night and we acknowledge that.

"Hopefully we can step forward from here."

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