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Sir Alex’s defensive woes

Manchester: Manchester United need more experience in defence if they are to win the Champions League again, manager Alex Ferguson said on Tuesday.

Ferguson is desperate to repeat his 1999 success in Europe’s premier club competition but he accepts that defenders like Rio Ferdinand, 24, Wes Brown, 23 and John O’Shea, 22, still have plenty to learn at the highest level.

United lost 5-6 on aggregate to Real Madrid in this season’s Champions League quarter finals and Ferguson said on his club’s official website on Tuesday: “We are improving all the time and I think that the only thing we lack now is experience — particularly in defence.

“Very few of our defenders can compare in terms of age and experience to the likes of Madrid, Juventus and both Milan clubs, but that aspect of our game will eventually come.

“All teams that win Champions Leagues, or even World Cups, have tremendous knowledge at the back.

“I am not talking about a change of style here, because at Manchester United we have a philosophy about how the game should be played — and that will never change.

“The way we play is far too open at the moment. Part of that is down to the culture of the Premiership, and some of it is down to the fact that some of my players are inexperienced at the very top level.

“The game in Madrid illustrated...the things we have to improve on.

“My defenders didn’t want to be left alone with the likes of Ronaldo or Raul. They didn’t have the belief to handle them one-on-one.

“I know they are good enough to do it. I know they can handle the best players in the world and in the next couple of seasons they will start to share that belief.”

United’s Old Trafford stadium hosts the Champions League final between Juventus and AC Milan on Wednesday and Ferguson hopes to taste another Champions League triumph himself before his contract expires in 2005.

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