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Fantasy follow-up: Week 18

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Fergie laments 'shoddy defending' and Fletcher loss

Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at some 'shoddy defending' and admitted Darren Fletcher's absence was a 'big loss' for Manchester United's defeat by Barcelona.

Fletcher missed the game through suspension after being sent off in the second leg of the semi-final against Arsenal and Ferguson lamented his fellow Scot's absence.

"I thought before the game it may have been a problem," said the United boss. I knew it might count against us because he is a big-game player and he was a big loss for us.

"It's difficult to say how big, and they had players missing too, but it showed itself for us tonight."

Slack defending contributed to the opening goal from Eto'o on 10 minutes and Ferguson conceded his team were unusually sloppy at the back.

He added: "In our best performances this season we have defended very well, but the defending was shoddy.

"The first goal didn't help. It gave them the opportunity to keep possession. We didn't plan to lose a goal early and we didn't deal with it well enough. That was the story. To lose a goal like that was a bad goal. It was a disappointing performance and some individuals will feel it themselves."

Ferguson praised Barcelona's ability on the ball and was disappointed with United's quality of possession.

"The simple reason [we lost] was possession," he continued. "We didn't do anything with it. The disappointment was the use of the ball when we got possession. You have to wait minutes to get it back off them. Could be it was an off night. Could be it was a mountain too big to climb.

"We recognised beforehand that the strength of Barcelona was their three central midfield players and that's why I used Giggs, who could play towards the front, but also drop into midfield, but their possession of the ball hurt us.

"It wasn't really Messi who was the problem. It was Iniesta and Xavi. They can keep the ball all night long.

"You have to give credit to a very good Barcelona team. If they get in front of you they are very difficult to beat.

"They kept possession of the ball and made it very difficult to get back. When we did get possession we didn't do well with it. Credit to them, the better team won."

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