MANCHESTER, April 13 – Carlo Ancelotti defended his decision to pick Fernando Torres despite another disappointing display from the Spanish striker as Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League.
Torres, who has not scored in more than 11 hours of football since joining Chelsea for a record £50 million in January, was substituted at half-time as Manchester United powered into the semi-finals with a 2-1 victory.
Chelsea veteran Didier Drogba, who replaced Torres at the break, immediately caused problems for United and scored an equaliser which gave the visitors hopes of a dramatic comeback.
As Chelsea’s dejected fans were left pondering what might have been had Drogba been picked to start ahead of Torres, Ancelotti was unrepentant.
"I thought a lot of time to take this decision," Ancelotti said. "I preferred to start with Fernando for this kind of game. But Didier played very well in the second half."
Ancelotti rejected suggestions from Sir Alex Ferguson that it would have been impossible for the Chelsea coach not to pick Torres given the club’s record outlay on the player.
"A lot of people thought Drogba would play, but I thought that having signed Torres for the money they did, they had to play him," Ferguson said. "I wasn’t 100 percent sure. But I couldn’t see how they could leave Torres out."
Ancelotti insisted however that Ferguson’s comments were wide of the mark.
"This is not true," he said. "I picked Fernando because I felt his skills and ability could be good for us."
Drogba had been brought on at half-time because Chelsea were chasing the game at 1-0 down, Ancelotti said.
"I wanted to put more pressure on the front," Ancelotti said. "We needed to score. I felt Didier was fresh and we could use his power in front. This was the reason I took out Fernando."
Ferguson meanwhile said he was convinced Torres would eventually come good for Chelsea, despite his disappointing start at Stamford Bridge, and described the club’s signing of the Spaniard as good transfer business.
"I don’t think anyone who had the opportunity to sign Torres would have turned it down," Ferguson said. "Everyone said at the time it was a fantastic bit of business so you can’t criticise him for that. It was a good signing.
"It’s not working at the moment but he’s a young man and there’s other seasons ahead."
Tuesday’s game had been billed as make-or-break for Ancelotti, whose position is expected to come under severe pressure after a season that in all probability is now likely to conclude without a trophy.
Ancelotti would not be drawn either on his own future or that of his first team squad, which could be the subject of a summer transfer clear-out.
Asked if a major overhaul of the playing staff was required following Chelsea’s failure to reach the Champions League semi-finals for a second year running, Ancelotti replied: "To speak about this now is not the moment.
"We still have eight games in the Premier League, we have to play these games and after that we have the time to speak about this."
Ancelotti also shrugged off questions about his position.
"I’m not concerned. I have to work, I have to try to do my best. It’s not my decision whether I stay or don’t stay here," he said, revealing that he had not spoken to Russian owner Roman Abramovich after the match.