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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Ferguson 'shocked' by Celtic Park defeat

Shell-shocked Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted his side's Champions League defeat at Celtic was 'hard to take'.

The result, following on from the Red Devils' loss to FC Copenhagen in their last game means they will face Benfica in a last-day shoot-out for the second season running, knowing another defeat will dump them out of the group stage once more.

Louis Saha's last-minute penalty miss meant United failed to overturn Shunsuke Nakamura's stunning free-kick 10 minutes from time after Celtic had survived a prolonged pummelling to book their own place in the last 16.

'I am in shock,' said Ferguson.

'To be honest losing this game is very hard to take. It is disappointing because we have thrown it away by not scoring goals to win the match.

'We didn't do enough in the last third of the field and that is what can happen in football if you don't take your chances.'

United's task in a fortnight's time is slightly easier than it was last season given on that occasion they needed to travel to the Stadium of Light and win.

At least this time the Red Devils only need a point on home soil to qualify, with Ferguson believing his team will get it.

'Our home form has been very good,' he said.

'I have no worries on that score. We have to be a bit more aggressive and take our chances.

'Unfortunately we have a couple of big matches to play before then.

'We can focus on those and put the Champions League on the back burner.'

Ferguson was referring to Sunday's crucial Premiership encounter with Chelsea at Old Trafford, when a win will put United six points clear at the top of the table.

However, before then he faces a major test to lift Saha's spirit in particular.

Lethal since replacing Ruud van Nistelrooy as United's first choice striker this season, the Frenchman's nerve failed him when it mattered.

Not only did he miss from the spot on a night when Van Nistelrooy also missed a late penalty but had already scored, Saha also blew a major chance when he believed he had been flagged offside when in fact play had been waved on.

'Louis thought he heard a whistle,' conceded Ferguson.

'Louis is obviously disappointed to miss the penalty but the players will help to lift him because we are all together at this club.

'There are no problems with the boy. I am sure he will miss another penalty in his career at some point.

'Understandably, the players are disappointed. We have five days to lift them but if we want to win the league we have to show character and I am sure we will.'

Ferguson insisted despite the result his team had not failed in his home city, believing they had come as close as it was possible to becoming only the second side to defeat Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League.

'Benfica came here and melted in that atmosphere, we didn't,' he said.

'Historically, we have always had to do things the hard way at this football club. It looks like we will have to do it the hard way again.'