Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledged the club's opponents in the Champions League, Barcelona, are the best team he has faced in his long and distinguished career.
''We were beaten, there is no other way to address the situation, by the best team,'' he told ITV1. ''I expected us to do better but at the end of the day we were beaten by the better team. They are the best team we have ever played, they are at the peak in this cycle of their team.
''There was good evidence we are a consistently good European team but we were beaten by the best team in Europe and there is no shame in that. Sometimes you come up against a far better team and tonight was one of those nights.''
Ferguson insisted United tried to play their normal game which was good enough the win the Premier League this season but they never got to grips with the way Barcelona retained possession and dominated midfield.
He also claimed he never considered man-marking Messi, who was voted man of the match after scoring for the first time on English soil as a Barcelona player.
Ferguson said: ''We tried to play the way we normally play. It's alien to us to man-mark players, It wasn't good enough on the night. We understand that and we acknowledge it and we can step forward from here.
''Great teams go in cycles and the cycle they (Barcelona) are in at the moment is the best in Europe, there's no question of that. How long it lasts, whether they can replace that team at another point...they certainly have the philosophy. Can you find players like Xavi and Iniesta and Messi all the time? Probably not. But they are enjoying the moment that they have just now.''
Ferguson admitted he wrestled with who to name on his substitutes' bench before preferring Michael Owen to Dimitar Berbatov.
''For Berbatov it was a difficult decision tonight,'' said Ferguson. ''Picking my team I found easy, but picking my subs I found very difficult. I tended to overload the midfield positions because I thought that was the position that was most important.
''I gambled with just one defender (on the bench) to allow me to get as many options in midfield and wide positions. It was a choice between Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov and if you are looking for someone to nick a goal in the last few minutes you want Owen's experience.''
Ferguson denied Berbatov had left the ground and said he was in the United dressing room after the game.