Scored a great goal, yet still was trumped by Llorente's effort (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Manchester United's ventures in Europe have ended after Athletic Club put in another masterful performance to embarrass the English Champions. Credit must go to Marcelo Biesla, the Bilbao manager. He has crafted some team. They destroyed us. The fluidity in attack, the pressing when off the ball and the technical prowess was incredible over the two legs. 2-1 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate.... It could have been so much more, and Bilbao would have been well worth it
Before we all get on are high horses lets state a few facts. It is only the Europa League. If anyone cared about this before the season started you are probably a Stoke City fan! I'm not disappointed we got knocked out. We can now dedicate our season to number 20. No more distractions. No more injuries
Yes, it would have been nice to go far, but Manchester United have bigger fish to fry. Manchester City spring to mind. I personally hope they go through against Sporting. More chance for their top players to get hurt, less chance for us. Playing on a Thursday night is a massive inconvenience as well.
Anyway. Goals from Fernando Llorente in the first half and Antonio De Marcos in the second meant United needed three goals to take it to extra time. But we were beaten long before, although Wayne Rooney did score a fantastic goal to pull one back.
The first was a sublime goal. A beautiful cross field pass was played over Rio Ferdinand's head, who had been given the slip by Llorente. It landed on the big man's big toe and he powered it home first time. It was almost a splitting image of Alex Song's pass and Robin Van Persie's shot to win the Arsenal Liverpool game. Magic
From then on United looked lost. Llorente soon went off with an injury that had threatened to keep him out of the game, but the United back line were given no rest. He was replaced by the lively Toquero, who wasted many a chance.
Into the second half and Bilbao increased their strangle hold. The pace of their passing and accuracy was great. We just could not get near them at all. And when we did manage a touch of the ball, it was kept at that. Just a touch. We lacked any significant goal threat at all, mainly due to the fact that we again turned over possession far too much.
The second was inevitable. Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba had entered with Rio Ferdinand and Micheal Carrick departing. Fergie was already in damage limitation mode, looking to save his influential players from injury. A ball was swung in that Smalling only cleared to the edge of the box. De Santos powered home. The pressure told.
Giggs also was subbed off for Danny Welbeck. When the great Welshman departed, the whole stadium gave him a standing ovation. What a classy club. Over the two legs, Bilbao have certainly impressed me. Both on the pitch and off.
There was time for Rooney. In the first half he blew hot and cold. He looked threatening without producing. But he produced a wonderful goal in the second half, curling home a shot with his right foot into the corner. Of all the United players tonight, maybe it was he who deserved a consolation.
And the final whistle couldn't come too soon. Many may slate the United performance over the two legs, yet Bilbao had a massive part to play in it. If they hang onto their players they are only going to get better. Biesla only arrived last summer, and the brand of football he has brought in seems to suit Bilbao down to the ground. Llorente up top is a beast. Martinez is a class act and Muniain is a fantastic little player. Expect to hear a lot more about them, and I personally hope they go on to win the competition, as well as earning themselves a Champions League spot. Based on these two performances, they deserve it.
As for United, we play Wolves away on Sunday. Lets hope we have regrouped and put in a strong performance. We can now concentrate all of our efforts toward gaining title number 20. That is what are season is all about.