ATHLETIC BILBAO 2, MAN UNITED 1.
(Bilbao win 5-3 on aggregate)
MANCHESTER United’s exit from the Europa League was confirmed in Spain at the hands of Athletic Bilbao.
And it brought the curtain down on a miserable European campaign for United, one which saw them lose four games, three of which were in the lesser of the two competitions.
After scraping past Ajax in the last 32 of the Europa League, United were humbled by the Basques with Sir Alex Ferguson admitting they had no arguments having been comprehensively outplayed both home and away.
“We cannot complain about the result. Bilbao were the better team. It has been a bad European season,” explained Ferguson.
The Reds’ manager added his team had been conceding soft goals in their European campaign adding feeling sorry for themselves is not an issue with an important Premier League game at Wolves on Sunday.
United travelled to Bilbao fortunate only to have a 3-2 deficit from the leg at Old Trafford where they had been comprehensively out played.
But the team which is in fifth place in La Liga produced another excellent display to triumph again as United have rarely been so comprehensively beaten in European competition.
Bilbao ought to have taken the lead when Iker Muniain crashed a shot against the upright with Oscar de Marcos firing the rebound over.
The breakthrough came midway through the half when Fernando Llorente latched on to a long diagonal pass and outpaced Rio Ferdinand before shooting low across the face of goal past David de Gea.
Ryan Giggs saw a header deflected over while Tom Cleverley might have won a penalty as United briefly rallied.
It was only a brief respite as Bilbao produced a masterful display in the second half in which they could easily have scored four goals.
Andoni Iraola left three players for dead before shooting wide while substitute Gaizka Toquero fired over before the second goal finally came midway through the second half.
Chris Smalling made a clearance but the ball ran free to de Marcos who drove a shot into the roof of the net.
Bilbao ought to have added to their tally as Markel Susaeta shot wide, Toquero missed a sitter and de Marcos was foiled by de Gea.
Wayne Rooney scored a consolation goal for United 10 minutes from time bending in a low shot from 25 yards.
It gave the scoreline a respectable appearance whereas the harsh truth was United were well beaten for a second time as they were left with only one piece of silverware to play for, the defence of their Premier League title and fending off the challenge from their noisy neighbours.