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Europe in a different league for United

Manchester United slumped to a 3-2 home defeat against Athletic Bilbao, in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Europa League.
Despite David DeGea’s heroic performance, the Red Devils now face an uphill struggle to overturn the deficit in Spain in a week time.

United were outplayed, outthought and outran and, bar for the former Atletico Madrid’s man, the scoreline could have been a lot worse.

From the moment United got knocked out in Basel, Ferguson has made clear that his team have learnt from their mistakes in the Champions League and they were not going to take this competition lightly.

If tonight’s result wasn’t caused by complacency then Fergie has some serious issue to deal with, as the display was as poor as United have been in Europe in recent years.

Despite a strong line-up – featuring Rafael, Smalling, Evans and Evra at the back with Young, Jones, Giggs and Park in midfield and Rooney and Hernandez up-front – United never looked like bossing the game and were almost constantly on the back foot.

Athletic, who had come to Old Trafford with belligerent intentions, were quickly off the mark as Llorente saw his shot fizzle just wide of DeGea’s post.

United were slow and lacked tempo but took the lead after 22 minutes as Wayne Rooney was quick to convert after Hernandez had forced a smart save from Iraizoz, following some clever work from Giggs in the penalty box.

Athletic should have leveled ten minutes later, as Markel Susaeta lobbed wide after evading United’s defence, before DeGea palmed away Antoni Iraola’s shot.
Bielsa’s men were deservedly level just before halftime, when Fernando Llorente headed home, after Susaeta was allowed to ghost behind United back four following an excellent passage of play.

Any hopes of a turnaround in the second half were quickly dashed, as the Basque dominated possession, with a mixture of slick passes and brilliant movements without the ball.

DeGea single-handedly kept Athletic at bay with three fantastic saves which denied Llorente and Muniain; but even the brilliant Spaniard was forced to capitulate when Herrera’s lob pass found DeMarcos who drilled home his side’s brilliant second goal.

United were stunned, while the 7000-strong Basque contingent went berserk in the stands.
This was Athletic’s first visit to Old Trafford since 1957 and Marcelo Bielsa’s youngsters definitely gave their fans something to cheer about and, perhaps, memories they will cherish for a long time.

Carrick then replaced the injured Chris Smalling, with Anderson and Nani coming on for Park and Giggs, but United never looked threatening going forward and, when Rafael fell asleep after another excellent DeGea’s save allowing Muniain to hammer in Athletic’s third goal, United looked as good as gone.

In truth, the goal originated from a farcical free-kick given by the referee after Evra had passed the ball after losing his boot, but United didn’t deserve any luck tonight.

That Rooney restored some hope with a last minute penalty mattered little. The damage had been done.

United have left themselves a mountain to climb and now look extremely unlikely to progress to the quarter-finals.

While some might argue that not playing in the Europa League could benefit United in their quest for an unprecedented 20th title, it’s striking to see how poor they have been in Europe this season.

After years of success on the continental stage, United look to have lost their way.
Whether this is just down to bad performances or has deeper roots, only time will tell. The only certainty is that the love affair between United and Europe isn’t blossoming this season.

Daniele (@MUFC_dan87)



  1. g clarke

    9 March 2012 at 00:05

    bil were bril would beat most brit teams not chance over there m u played well could have been worse sky sports will play loss down

  2. Yang

    9 March 2012 at 00:23

    As I stated beginning of season, Current United team is lacking defense power, you won’t win cup game w/o solid defense, look at the pool, they don’t have coherent attacking plot but they keep progress in cup game, Not single defender over age 25 today’s game show United defense is way too inexperienced. I guess team still have some chance overcome two goals at away but I highly doubt that United can win the cup.

    • Chicharito

      9 March 2012 at 08:51

      @Yang: Evra under 25 🙄 🙄

      • Onkar

        9 March 2012 at 15:50

        @Chicharito: Is Evra a Defender in the First place 🙄 🙄

  3. RedDevilEddy

    9 March 2012 at 01:19

    I miss this lad so much it’s on the brink of unbearable. The sooner we get him back the better, really wish him a speedy recovery because…. Boy do United need it!

  4. Yang

    9 March 2012 at 02:17

    I want to say about our sudden changing of back line. Current European footy change with Barcelona fore checking, Most team start to follow Barcelona’s method, putting a huge pressure on opposition defenders. To cancel out fore checking, we need so called ball playing center half who is comfortable on the ball. See? Smalling, Evans and John are all ball playing center half but they all lack of defensive skill due to lack of experience.

    I saw United linked with Hummel and Brazilian CB (Dede ?) this season,they are all can pass the ball well too. I think Fergie clearly prepare for new challenge but it will take some time, Personally, I think we need recruit one experienced CB though. New CM will be a lot more difficult since we only play two men there so it require really inhuman type player.

  5. Utdfan

    9 March 2012 at 03:47

    Phil Rafael, Jones & Smalling still not good enough for Europe at this time; whilst Evra and Giggs just cannot be allowed to play in these games cause their inclusion actually handicaps the team.

    Again SAF adopted a foolish tactic of 4-4-2 against Bilbao and with Giggs only effective for 40 minutes of the game, essentially Man United was only playing with 10 men, i.e. 4-3-2 system that’s the reason the midfield was dominated by Bilbao. Hopefully the club gets someone competant to advise him in tactics if they still want the old horse to continue at the helm.

  6. parriff

    9 March 2012 at 06:20

    alex is an old fool that is all i can say why would he underates bilbao that way by benching your complete midfielders.anyway thats his punishment

    • Stephen

      9 March 2012 at 13:36

      @parriff: I sugguest you fuck off and support another club, maybe in your own Country maybe, Plastic?
      Experience is required for some of these young lads. Evans had a great game, Jones looked out of position and Rafael looks like a loan move would do him the World of good.
      Not a great result but they were superb, lesson learnt on how to pass.
      Good to see the usual Knee Jerk glories are out in force again.

      • Daniele

        10 March 2012 at 11:07

        @Stephen: spot on mate. As usual the “they’re all shit” trumpets are playing loud after a defeat.
        MUFC, here before, here after.

  7. Owen

    9 March 2012 at 08:11

    How Time has changed..Then players needed hair-driers,now Fergie needs..

  8. Yang

    9 March 2012 at 08:21

    We usually get dominated against high line pressing team but that is United team defense style. We don’t press high so it is easy for opposition build up around our penalty box. We defend from deep and let opposition pass the ball around but we don’t allow good goal chance when Rio and Vidic defend. Our wide player must narrow in and help out CM.

    Problem is that John get confused and Giggs was isolated since John locate behind marker all game. Rooney and Chica had bad game too. Nobody lead the defenders so allow too much space behind defense line, this is sign of inexperience. Hopefully, they improve as soon as possible. I don’t know how we can use John though, I have no idea where John play atm.

    • gator

      10 March 2012 at 17:15

      @Yang: rb. But he is young so he has time. At Cdm he is not our savior

  9. Owen

    9 March 2012 at 08:46

    There was a time when Roy Keane used to win games for United in tunnel itself.Now we have a Captain who does everything except leading(or even playing) on pitch.

    Probably the Worst LB and Captain in League right now.Please leave my United.

  10. RMJ

    9 March 2012 at 13:03

    I dont get it, why is everyone slating the defense? We had no control over this game because our midfield was non existent till Carrick and Anderson came on. We had lost control of the game by then and anybody is surprised by Rafael’s lethargic jog to clear the ball? Phil Jones has no idea how to play in the middle and Giggs needs a much more experienced partner there to be utilized fully.Park was non existent cos he was making up for the MIA in midfield and the only reason we had any semblance of shape and so Young dear me was just dreadful at times.

    When is fergie ever gonna learn you cant go into europe with just makeshift midfeilders

  11. colver

    9 March 2012 at 19:06

    Yeah Ferguson even admits in his post match interview that we only started to control the game once we got three men in central midfield. 4-4-2 just isn’t a viable system against European opposition especially when it consists of makeshift midfielders.

    I understand Ferguson’s desire to rotate. But for rotation to be viable we need more quality in depth and midfielders who can actually stay fit.

    Whichever way you look at it we need two new central midfield signings. One more experienced player who can smooth the transition process when Giggs and Scholes retire and one hot prospect.

  12. Moscow is my heaven

    9 March 2012 at 21:04

    How about getting our club some ball playing central midfielders? You know, the ones who can control and pass the ball, move off the ball, keep the ball moving? It appears to be too much to ask for these days 🙄

    Anderson, Giggs, Scholes and Fletcher must all be eliminated from this club, along with Welbeck, Hernandez, Young and Berbatov. “Youngsters” who give promise but little substance should be allowed a few months to go looking for a new club, which should strike some sense into these arrogant little brats who bully our club over contracts these days. Once the Glazer ownership ends, Ferguson must also be unceremoniously kicked out of the club (to avoid a post-Busby hangover), and Mourinho should be allowed total control with complete command of the club’s resources so that we may embark on a new era of dominance.

    We need a 4-3-3 formation, with the cream of Europe’s crop in our squad, and they must be reinforced with new signings every summer so that one day we will challenge the might of Barca and take back our European crown. These should be the ambitions of the biggest club in the world. Not the ambitions of a Europa League club being fucked over by the likes of Athletic Bilbao and countless other nobodies.

    • gator

      10 March 2012 at 00:08

      @Moscow is my heaven: yes… and a hot tub area in the stratford end… and massages with happy endings for all the season tix holders… 😳 opps got carried away with the wish list 8)

    • Stephen

      10 March 2012 at 08:48

      @Moscow is my heaven: Put your cock away again with Mourinho, you are a joke..

    • Daniele

      10 March 2012 at 11:12

      @Moscow is my heaven: Scholes and Giggs kicked out of the club?And you call yourself a United fan? Hernandez? The one whose goals won us the league last year?The same player who has 10 goals in 16 games this year? I agree, let’s go and spend £85 mil on the likes of Carroll, Henderson, Downing and Adams.
      I like Mourinho a lot more than I used to but, with the exceptions of Porto, he has never done anything without a financially strong club behind him.
      Therefore, even if Fergie was to receive the treatment you wish for, Mourinho’s hands will be tied as we are anything but a financially strong club.


      • Stephen

        10 March 2012 at 11:17

        @Daniele: He supports Mourinho United mate….
        All Hail Fergie

      • Stephen

        10 March 2012 at 11:17

        @Daniele: He supports Mourinho United mate….
        All Hail Fergie

      • Moscow is my heaven

        10 March 2012 at 12:03

        @Daniele: I think I said ‘after the Glazer ownership ends…’?

        But yeah, don’t let that get in the way of a good natured rant.

        • Stephen

          10 March 2012 at 12:14

          @Moscow is my heaven: When they go? They are not going anywhere fast, they are sucking too much money out of the club.
          Yes they are great owners..

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