Both Manchester clubs crashed out of the Europa League after being beaten by Sporting Lisbon and Athletic Bilbao.
Where to start? Manchester United were beaten both home and away by Bilbao and deservedly so, not at any point especially in the second leg did they look like they were going to go through. Bilbao, to put it simply were fantastic and didn’t give the United players a moments peace when they were in possession. Fernando Llorente looked like the best striker on the pitch over the two legs and scored some wonderful goals including a lovely first time volley in the second leg. He showed up the United front players even if Wayne Rooney did grab some goals himself, Llorente had the movement and the finishing ability which is attracting attention from bigger clubs and judging him on these two performances he can play well under pressure and in big games so I think a lot of clubs will be sniffing around him in the next transfer window.
So United failed and I believe that Alex Ferguson got it wrong in the second leg because he knew that his team needed to score twice to go through and this was if they kept a clean sheet which was never going to happen. He played a hardworking side and committed side but it did not seem likely that the team he selected would be good enough to win the game never mind qualify. He went with only one striker in Rooney and left Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck on the bench, while playing Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young in the wide positions. It seemed like Fergie was scared of this Bilbao side, why not go out and attack them, try and grab an early goal and see if they could deal with the pressure. But, no instead it seemed like he just wanted his side to stay in the game for as long as possible and then nick a couple of goals on the counter.
Maybe they will prefer being out so they can focus on the Premier League and Manchester City in the first half of their game seemed to take their eye off the ball because they were 2-0 down at halftime and losing 3-0 on aggregate. Losing the first leg was acceptable as it was away and Portugal can be difficult to go to but being 2-0 down at home is not something you see often from a team that wants to win trophies. In their defence they picked up in the second half and actually won the game on the night with goals from Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli which shows that Roberto Mancini did want to win the trophy and did not accept what he saw in the first half and let his players know what he thought of them at halftime. They were unfortunate to go out on away goals but they only have themselves to blame.
Both teams now only have the Premier League to focus on and that will be a fascinating race but it is a frustrating time for English teams in Europe with every team now out apart from Chelsea. This is a missed opportunity especially for Alex Ferguson as this is the only trophy he hasn’t won as manager of United so he probably wanted to see his team perform better. It is now up to Chelsea to win a European trophy this season.