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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 28, 2009

Rooney masks pain to hail Iniesta as world's best

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney did not let the disappointment of Wednesday's 2-0 defeat in the Champions League final stop him hailing Barcelona's Andres Iniesta as the world's best player.

Iniesta was instrumental as the Catalans controlled midfield to claim their third European Cup with relative ease. He laid on Samuel Eto'o's 10th-minute opener before Lionel Messi sealed victory with a rare header in the second half.

"They are a brilliant team and I think Iniesta is the best player in the world at the moment," the forward, among the English champions' biggest disappointments on the night, told reporters.

United made a bright start with FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo having a number of chances, but it was a one-sided affair after Eto'o struck and Rooney admitted his team were comprehensively beaten.

"They scored their goals at good times and made it difficult for us" he said. "Barcelona pass the ball so well and if you don't take your chances they punish you."

Defending champions United, in contrast, were uncharacteristically careless with possession and Rooney was one of the worst offenders. He made no secret of how bitter the defeat tasted.

"I'm hurting at the moment, but we've got to get over it and look to next season," he said.

Meanwhile, Edwin van der Sar cited an inability to retain possession as the major reason for the defeat and challenged his side to fight back.

''It was a disappointing evening,'' said the veteran Dutchman. ''We had a good 10 minutes at the start but after that it changed a little bit. We have come from behind plenty of times before, so the goal itself was not an issue.

''But what it did was to allow them to start playing a little bit. In situations like that you have to try and keep possession but at times I felt we lost it a little bit too easily.''

At 38, Van der Sar might not get many more chances to make amends and add to the winner's medal he won last season, 13 years after his first triumph with Ajax.

However, he is committed to another year with the Old Trafford outfit, when the desire is bound to be strong given the decisive nature of Barcelona's victory. Not that Van der Sar is looking ahead too quickly. He wants a rest first.

''We have got to get this disappointment out of the way,'' he said. ''I will look at new challenges after the holidays.''

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