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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hargreaves: Our plan worked

Owen Hargreaves declared United’s goalless draw with Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final was a job well done.

The makeshift right-back revealed that containing Barca’s potent attack was always the main priority at the Nou Camp and believes the Reds now have the upper hand going into Tuesday’s second leg.

He told MUTV: “I think we’d have taken a 0-0 before the game. Defensively I thought we were strong and didn’t allow Barcelona any clear chances.

“They had a lot of possession and kept the ball well, but they didn’t really penetrate us and that was the strategy going into the game.”

Hargreaves refused to blame Cristiano Ronaldo for missing an early penalty which could have changed the nature of the tie entirely.

“You’re not going to score them all,” he said. “He’s scored more than he’s missed and I think maybe he changed his mind at the last moment. It probably would have changed the flow of the game had we scored, but it’s fine.”

Ronaldo had another strong penalty appeal waved away by referee Massimo Busacca later in the first half when Barca defender Rafael Marquez appeared to obstruct the winger as he bore down on goal.

Hargreaves added: “It looked like a penalty but after the referee had given one penalty, it would have been brave for him to give another and a red card.”

Carrick: Now we'll attack

Michael Carrick was satisfied with United's goalless draw against Barcelona, but admitted the Reds will adopt a more attacking mentality in next week's Champions League semi-final decider at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side successfully adopted a conservative approach in the Nou Camp en route to a goalless draw. With Barca due in Manchester next Tuesday, Carrick admits he and his colleagues are intent on reaching the final in Moscow.

"We looked very solid as a team and put in a very good performance defensively," he told MUTV. "In a perfect world we would like to score, but it’s not to be. It’s not the end of the world, a draw’s not a bad result for us.

"We could have nicked it. Cristiano’s had a penalty, there’s been a couple of decent opportunities – I had one myself that might have gone in. On a different day we might be sitting here with a victory."

The Catalans rarely posed a serious threat to United's stout defence, but fleeting glimpses of their attacking prowess have reinforced Carrick's belief that the Reds can't go too gung-ho in pursuit of victory at Old Trafford.

"We know now that if we can win next week at home, we go through," he said. "It’s a different game at a different place, so we’ll be looking to attack more – that’s for sure. But we’re not going to do that in a stupid way.

"They’ve got some world class players. They’re not a side you can take lightly, and we’re all aware of that. We know the threats that they possess and it’s going to probably be another tight affair. Hopefully we’ll come out on top."

Eto'o: We're favourites now

Samuel Eto'o insists Barcelona have one foot in the Champions League final after last night's 0-0 draw with Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo's second-minute penalty miss meant United left the Nou Camp without a vital away goal. And Cameroon hitman Eto'o believes Barca are now the clear favourites to progress. He said: "I really think that if we go to Manchester and play like this then there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't go through. It's not an easy task to be the home side when you have drawn 0-0 away from home in the first leg of a knockout tie."
The Sun