AFTER admitting Manchester City deserved to win their first Premier League title, Sir Alex Ferguson last night told the newly-crowned champions it will take 100 years to match Manchester United's proud history.
Ferguson looked relaxed as he walked through the tunnel at the Stadium of Light yesterday after a dramatic final day in which United were pipped to the title in incredible circumstances by their staunch city rivals.
It was a defeat which will have hurt the 70-year-old, particularly as a 38-game season was decided purely on goal difference which left the men from Old Trafford cursing their luck for throwing away an eight point gap just six weeks ago.
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But Ferguson said: "They [City] can go on as much as they like. That's what you would expect, but the history of our club stands us aside. We don't need to worry about that.
"I think we have a rich history, better than anyone and it'll take them a century to get to our level of history. But for us, it's still a challenge and we're good at challenges. We'll kick on from here."
Ferguson and the United players were still on the pitch waiting for confirmation
that they had been crowned the champions of the 2011-12 season after a 1-0 win at Sunderland.
Wayne Rooney's goal had got things rolling, only for the events to take twists and turns along the way before it was City who ended up celebrating at the Etihad Stadium instead.
Despite QPR taking a 2-1 lead which had United on the verge of a 20th league title, City somehow conjured up goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in stoppage time to secure only the Citizens' third league crown.
Ferguson, though, insists Manchester United will be stronger for the experience.
He said: "We're all disappointed obviously. We should be disappointed because we did our best. But for their goalkeeper (Simon Mignolet), we could have scored seven goals. We hit the post, the bar and the goalkeeper made fantastic saves throughout the match.
"We conducted ourselves in the right way. It was a good level of performance and I have absolutely no recriminations about our season at all.
"Yes, there will be times when we can sit back and say we did this wrong, we did that wrong, but 89 points would have won the league most seasons. They're a good bunch of lads. The younger players will remember this because sometimes a bad experience is even better for you.
"When you've got a certain character and a good purpose about you, then you shouldn't fear the future and I don't think these lads will. That's how the players are. It's an experience they have never had before."
Ferguson had stayed in his dug-out until news filtered through that QPR had taken the lead at the Etihad. Then, and only then, was there a real sense around the Stadium of Light that United would win the trophy.
But Ferguson said: "When they said five minutes to go (at the Etihad) - I said to Mick Phelan before the game that if they equalise late on, I think we'll be in trouble because of the impetus of scoring late on.
"Five minutes injury time seemed a lot - I don't know the circumstances of it - but QPR played with ten men (because of Joey Barton's red card). That was probably a killer for them, Having to play with ten men for such a long period of time.
"At the end of the day, we have lost the league and there is nothing we can do. We congratulate Manchester City. Anyone who wins the league deserves to win it because it's a very, very difficult league to win. We know that because, as we've experienced today, we've lost on goal difference."