Alex Ferguson, rarely noted for complimenting other teams, heaped lavish praise on Barcelona on Monday, saying he could not see the Catalans failing to defend the Champions League title.
“Sometimes in football, you have to hold your hand up and say: ‘They’re better than us’,” Manchester United manager Ferguson told a news conference before the FIFA Balon D’Or player of the year award.
“It’s not a crime or weakness, it’s just plain facts. They are just an extraordinary team,” said Ferguson, whose side lost the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals to the Catalans.
“I can’t see anyone taking the trophy from them this year. Real Madrid are probably the nearest to them,” added Ferguson, whose side failed to reach the last 16 this season.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola, wearing a black sweater and faded jeans while Ferguson wore a suit, said Barcelona had almost forgotten that losing was part of the sport.
“We have to live with the fact that, by winning so much, we lose the perception this is a game with opponents and it’s quite possible that we can win or lose,” said Guardiola, whose team trail Real Madrid by five points in La Liga.
“We are competing against opponents who have a spectacular record,” he added. “If a team is five points ahead it’s because they are better, they have done things better than us. There are no secrets in football.”
Ferguson, Guardiola and Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho are candidates for the coach of the year award while Lionel Messi, Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo are on the shortlist for the player