Barcelona gave us a hiding, says Man Utd boss Ferguson

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson labelled Barcelona "the best team I have faced" after his side's 3-1 defeat in the Champions League final.

The Spanish club put on a stunning display of passing, movement and clinical finishing at Wembley to lift the European Cup for the fourth time.

Wayne Rooney equalised after Pedro scored, but goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa left United well beaten.

"Nobody's given us a hiding like that but they deserve it," Ferguson said.

"They play the right way and they enjoy their football. They do mesmerise you with their passing and we never really did control Messi. But many people have said that.

"In my time as manager, it's the best team I've faced."

Having already experienced defeat by Barcelona in a Champions League final - in Rome in 2009 - Ferguson was desperate not for history to repeat itself.

But his side were outplayed and outclassed, with Messi at the heart of everything good about Barcelona - and there was plenty that was good.

Ferguson compared Saturday's loss to the famous 4-0 drubbing United received from Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 1994, a result which helped redefine his team's approach to European competitions.

"It's not going to be easy, but that's the challenge," Ferguson said. "You shouldn't be afraid of a challenge. The one thing we have shown is that we are consistent in Europe.

"This may be the kind of stepping stone that we had some years ago when we got beaten 4-0. We improved after that and we want to improve after tonight."

Barcelona's victory was their second triumph in the Champions League in three years - and their third in six seasons.

Ferguson admitted that Barcelona would be difficult to beat so long as their star players Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez remained in their ranks.

"I think that great teams do go in cycles, and I think the cycle they're in at the moment makes them the best in Europe, there's no question of that," said the Scot.

"How long it lasts, whether they can replace that team at a certain point, who knows? But they certainly have the philosophy.

"It's always difficult to say whether you'll be able to replace players like Xavi and Iniesta at a certain point. Probably not. But they are enjoying the moment and they deserve to because they play football the right way."

United centre-back Rio Ferdinand echoed his manager's comments, adding: "They are a fantastic football team with great individuals, but more importantly, they are a great collective team.

"We've got to aim to get to that and that's something for next season and we will come back fighting again next year."

Meanwhile, United captain Nemanja Vidic conceded that defensive errors had cost his side at Wembley.

"We tried to press high and in some parts of the game we did well," said the Serbian.

"But the goals we lost, we didn't do what we have to do to close their players down.

"When they have time on the ball they can make the final pass and that is what they did."

Full-back Patrice Evra paid tribute to Barca's almost telepathic style play which saw them win the European Cup for a second time at Wembley.

"We have to accept that for the last four years Barcelona have been the best team in the world, and United the second," admitted the Frenchman.

"We know each other, but they know each other so well, so perfectly.

"Every time Messi gets the ball he knows Xavi is going to be there, Pedro is going to be there, or Iniesta.

"It was very difficult, Barcelona keep the ball really well."