Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson conceded that his side's 0-0 UEFA Champions League draw at Marseille had been a dreadful spectacle but said he remained optimistic ahead of the second leg.
United were made to toil in Tuesday night's stalemate at Stade Velodrome and rarely threatened to score the away goal that would have put them in control of the last 16 tie ahead of the return match on 15 March. Ferguson took heart from the performance of centre-back pairing Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling but his mood in the post-match press conference was decidedly downbeat.
"Scoring away from home is important and we didn't do that, so that's a disappointment to me," said Ferguson. "It's a fair result. Marseille didn't cause too many problems for us. They only had one strike on goal. Our two centre-backs were very good. In the first half both teams cancelled each other out. Nothing really happened in the match and it wasn't a very good match to watch."
In recent years United have grown adept at acquiring and protecting narrow leads in European away games and Ferguson paid testament to Marseille for hustling the visitors out of their usual rhythm. "Our passing is usually much, much better and I thought it was a very poor pitch compared to the usual standard of pitches today," he said. You have to give credit to Marseille for pressing us well and not giving us time on the ball. But on our own ground, we'll be much better."
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps had emphasised the importance of a clean sheet in the days leading up to the game and he was thrilled to have prevented United from claiming an away goal. "We've completed 50 per cent of the journey, without conceding any goals, which is already very important," said the former France international.
"The first half was fairly tight on both sides. We had a really good start to the second half, for about 25 minutes, when we got into some good situations without producing any big chances. During that period, when we put them under pressure with our attacking play, we could even have scored a little goal.
"But the end of the match was more difficult, due to the effort we'd put in and the fact Manchester changed system to a 4-4-2. It's good that we managed to stay solid. We'll have to continue this defensive solidity at Old Trafford."
Ferguson identified striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, who missed Tuesday's game with a groin injury, and winger Mathieu Valbuena, a late entrant as a substitute, as OM's key dangermen ahead of the second leg. United will also hope to have first-team stalwarts such as Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs back for the Old Trafford showdown and Ferguson said he did not care how his side reached the quarter-finals.
"Any 0-0 at this stage is a disappointment, as away goals count," he said. "But you'd have to say, with United at home, we have a good chance. All we have to do is win the game. I don't care if it's 10-9."
United, three-time champions, were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals last season, while Marseille are bidding to reach the last eight for the first time since they won the tournament in 1993.