Alex Ferguson has backed his Manchester United players to bounce back from the agony of seeing the Barclays Premier League title wrenched from their grasp.
For a few fleeting seconds, United thought they had pipped derby rivals City when the final whistle at Sunderland confirmed a 1-0 victory with Roberto Mancini’s men drawing 2-2 at home to 10-man QPR.
However, the roar from the Sunderland fans then left them in little doubt as to what happened at the Etihad Stadium as City claim a last-gasp winner.
But while Ferguson was understandably disappointed after a dramatic end to the season, he vowed his team would learn from the experience.
He said: “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 are a good bunch of lads. The younger players will remember today because sometimes a bad experience is even better for you.
“When you have 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.”
United did all they could in the pursuit of a 20th title as Wayne Rooney’s 20th-minute header, his 35th goal of the season, eased them past Sunderland.
They could have won more handsomely with Rooney himself passing up a golden opportunity before the break and then being denied by keeper Simon Mignolet after it, while the England striker hit the bar with a free-kick and Paul Scholes saw a volley come back off the post.
But the decisive intervention was to come on the other side of the Pennines as Sergio Aguero struck at the death.
Ferguson said: “I said to [assistant] Mick Phelan before the game that if they [City] 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 10 men. That was probably a killer for them, having to play with 10 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.”
Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill admitted he was dreading Ferguson’s arrival in his office following his post-match press conference after shaking hands with the Scot believing City were still drawing.
He said: “He might just be coming into the room for a moment or two and I am dreading going into the room.
“He will be bitterly disappointed, bitterly disappointed because this would have been a sensational year for him to win the championship.
“While he has won so many I think he has lost count, this is one that he will be so disappointed by, it’s hardly worth mentioning.”