defender Phil Jones' lack of experience showed in the Europa League loss
to Ajax on Thursday.
LONDON: Alex Ferguson has admitted that he is
to blame for Manchester United's surprise 1-2 loss to Dutch side Ajax
Amsterdam in their Europa League clash at Old Trafford on Thursday.
The Scot's decision to select a
back-four with an average age of 21 - made up of twins Rafael and Fabio
da Silva, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling - almost backfired
spectacularly. United, who won the away leg 2-0 last week, ended up
limping unconvincingly into the round of 16 with a 3-2 aggregate win.
'I've got to accept responsibility for picking
the team and there were too many young players in the back-four,'
Ferguson was reported as saying in the Daily Mail.
'That was a big problem in terms of experience at the back.
'It was a good opportunity to give Jones and
Smalling a game, but their lack of experience at pushing up and
tightening up a game showed. For a European game, it was too much of a
risk. We survived it, but it was nerve-wracking.
'Ajax are a fantastic team in terms of keeping
possession, but they never really looked like scoring. Then they got
the goal and that gave them encouragement.'
He was referring to the moment Ajax striker
Aras Ozbiliz struck a thunderous first-time effort from 10m in the 37th
minute to cancel out Javier Hernandez's sixth-minute goal.
Defender Toby Alderweireld's goal three minutes from time then left United clinging on.
And yet it had all started so well for the Red Devils.
Dimitar Berbatov slipped a pass through to
Nani, from which the winger drew a decent save from Kenneth Vermeer.
Then, the Bulgarian striker clipped a pass through to Hernandez, who
raced on to the ball before effortlessly cutting inside Alderweireld,
and firing past Vermeer from just outside the box.
Other chances came and went, and it seemed United would be on course for a straightforward victory.
But Ajax proved the superior team for the remaining two-thirds of the game.
It did not help that Ashley Young cut an
anonymous figure in midfield, Nani offered little defensive support and
Smalling and Jones lacked organisation and communication.
Indeed, had United goalkeeper David de Gea not
made a superb save to tip over Siem de Jong's stinging header shortly
before the hour mark, Ajax could have been toasting a much sweeter
victory, and passage into the last 16.
Athletic Bilbao now lie in wait as United
prepare to face the Spanish club for the first time since their 6-5
aggregate victory in the European Cup quarter-finals in 1957.