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United cannot hide from humbling defeat says Ferdinand

© Reuters 2002

MANCHESTER, England, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Rio Ferdinand insists a weakened Manchester United side has no excuses for their Champions League capitulation to Maccabi Haifa.

The 30 million pounds ($46.71 million) defender was stunned by United's 3-0 defeat by the Israeli club, which means the former European champions need to avoid a two-goal defeat in their final game against Bayer Leverkusen to top Group F.

"Any side losing players of the calibre we have had missing will suffer, but while everybody is talking about a weakened squad that's no excuse," England international Ferdinand told the Manchester Evening News on Wednesday.

"We are big enough to accept that we lost, but we are Manchester United and we should have the ability to beat anybody with any side we put out.

"It hurts because you don't want to lose any game in training, let alone a proper match.

"The fact is we didn't play very well. We didn't create many chances and those we did create we didn't capitalise on. If you don't do that at this level you get punished."

With United already assured of a place in the second phase of the competition, manager Alex Ferguson rested Fabien Barthez, David Beckham and Laurent Blanc for Tuesday night's game in Cyprus, while Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs were all injured.

A point against Haifa would have been enough to earn United top spot in their first phase section and a seeding when the second stage draw is made.

The absences gave Ferguson the chance to blood some youngsters, with Kieran Richardson enjoying his full debut and Daniel Nardiello and 18-year-old Norwegian Mads Timm also appearing as substitutes.

Ferguson expressed no regret for fielding such an experimental team, even though they suffered United's biggest European defeat since losing 4-0 to Barcelona in 1994.

But defender Phil Neville, looking ahead to the visit of Leverkusen on November 13, said: "We now have a big game against Bayer.

"German sides are renowned for getting things late on, so we have to make sure we are up for it to ensure we finish top of the group.

"We are disappointed it is going to the last game because we'd have liked to have nipped it in the bud early.

"In terms of the possession we had (against Haifa) I thought the scoreline was a bit harsh, but the first two goals were totally unstoppable and I don't think you will see many better strikes in Europe.

"We should have got the result, but our play in the final third simply wasn't up to scratch."

Yaniv Katan and Raimondas Zutautas put Maccabi two up before Yakubu Ayegbeni completed the scoring from the penalty spot. But the win was not enough to save Haifa's Champions League hopes.

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