Arsene Wenger found sympathy from an unlikely source on Tuesday in the aftermath of arguably his most harrowing night in 25 years of football management. Old adversary Sir Alex Ferguson said the Arsenal manager should not be judged by his failure so far to win the Champions League, but it could be some while before the Frenchman gets anywhere near celebrating success in Europe's premier club competition based on his side's ruthless dismantling by Manchester United.
The biggest concern for Wenger, by his own admission, was his side's failure to even suggest they had the competitive spirit to prevent United from having the opportunity to upset the Champions League odds and become the first club side to successfully defend their European crown.
He said: "All we can do is look at ourselves. To fight such a long way to get here and then to give the game away like we did– it is very disappointing.
"The most difficult thing for me is that we have the feeling that we never played in the semi-final."
Wenger has talked long and hard about the potential of his young side – but a promise is nothing until it is delivered, as the saying goes. He must address a lack of experience and quality in his defence and add more steel to a lightweight midfield to have any hope of ending a four-year wait for a piece of major silverware.
In mitigation, Wenger must surely feel let down by the failure of star men Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor to wrestle the initiative off United over the two legs but that alone should not gloss over the gaping chasm between the two sides on the big stage.
United simply wanted the victory more and Arsenal had no answer to the hunger shown by Ferguson's charges, inspired by the mesmeric Cristiano Ronaldo. Afterwards the Emirates boss spoke of "taking some distance" to assess the season because "when it mattered we couldn't win".
He may need to do some soul-searching before he can convince the Arsenal supporters who left in their droves before the final whistle that Arsenal can again take on the game's very best.
Nick Walsh writes features and betting previews for Betfair.