Barcelona coach Rijkaard vows to fight on

April 23, 2008

MANCHESTER, England, April 29 (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said he had no plans to resign after watching his side dumped from the Champions League by Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

GettyImages / ChrisColemanNani of Manchester United clashes with Lionel Messi of Barcelona

'Leaving has not entered my head. I have no intention of leaving,' Rijkaard said after the Catalans lost the semi-final, second leg 1-0. The first leg at the Nou Camp was goalless.

'The club and the team needs help and support. It's a time when we need to pull together and stick together. It would be a different thing if the players were saying it's time for me to go but that's not the case.'

The team's exit from Europe's premier club competition means it will be a second straight season that Barcelona fail to win any silverware. They have won only once in nine league games but Rijkaard remained defiant.

'Barcelona is a massive club with plenty of people capable of making decisions at the end of the season if decisions need to be taken. It will be time to draw conclusions at the end of the season.

'It would be overplaying it to say the season has been a failure. It would be easy to kick people when they are down and now is not the time to do it. You can lose yourself in this morass of criticism which can create bitterness and mistrust.'

Barcelona paid the price for failing to score in either leg of the semi-final tie as an early goal from Paul Scholes took United through to the final to face English Premier League rivals Liverpool or Chelsea in Moscow on May 21.

'We did everything but score,' the Dutch coach added. 'It was an even game. If anything we possibly had the better of the play but the rules state that the team that scores the goal goes through.

'It's a difficult defeat to take but we can leave Old Trafford with our heads held high and it's important that for the rest of the season we play with pride and character and make the best of the remaining games.'

Rijkaard applauded English football for its first Champions League final - but warned the purists not to expect a classic.

'The level of English teams is high,' he said.

'It is very difficult to beat them because they are very strong. They are very organised and all get behind the ball. It is very tough to beat an English team.

'The type of football they play is only in the Premier League. They defend as though their lives depend on it. And they are very successful.

'If they didn't play each other they could easily have had four English teams in the semi-finals.

'But I do feel English teams have a lot more to give. I just feel it is a great pity it is not the most beautiful kind of football to watch.'