United sent packing by brilliant Bilbao
ATHLETIC BILBAO produced another inspired victory to send Manchester United crashing out of the Europa league at the last 16 stage, writes Mischa Wilmers.
Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a strong side at San Mames as United attempted to overcome Athletic’s 3-2 lead following the first leg at Old Trafford last week.
But an outstanding Bilbao side took advantage of their home support to win 2-1 and progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
The Basque’s attacked relentlessly from the start with talented teenager Iker Muniain hitting the post early on following some terrific passing.
And they were rewarded in the 24th minute when a spectacular finish from Fernando Llorente put them ahead.
An inspired cross-field pass by Fernando Amorebieta found the striker unmarked in the box whose powerful volley beat a helpless David de Gea.
In the second half Bilbao resumed where they had left off, piling the pressure on United who appeared to run out of ideas.
Skipper Andoni Iraola went close to scoring a contender for goal of the tournament, skilfully dribbling past three United defenders before dragging his shot wide of the post.
Their efforts finally paid off on 65 minutes when Oscar De Marcos’s close range shot deflected off Jonny Evans to make it 2-0.
United were lucky not to concede several more as Bilbao went on to squander numerous chances before Wayne Rooney temporarily gave the visitors hope with a brilliant goal from the edge of the box.
However Bilbao were able to hold off a late surge from the visitors whose pressure in the final 10 minutes proved too little too late.
At the final whistle Athletic Bilbao’s players and fans joyfully celebrated one of their most important victories in modern times.
Coach Marcelo Bielsa will feel optimistic about his side’s chances of winning the tournament if they can continue their rich vein of form in Europe this season.
Ferguson meanwhile will be forced to reflect on a dismal European campaign and question how his side was beaten so comprehensively by a team lying seventh in La Liga.
Iraizoz, Fernando Amorebieta, Jon Aurtenetxe, Andoni Iraola, Ander (Iñigo
Pérez, 82), Markel Susaeta, Ander Iturraspe, Javi Martínez, Iker Muniain (Mikel
San José, 88), Fernando Llorente (Gaizka Toquero, 40), Óscar De Marcos
Manchester United: David De Gea, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand (Chris Smalling, 63), Patrice Evra, Rafael, Park Ji-Sung, Michael Carrick (Paul Pogba, 63), Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs (Danny Welbeck, 68), Wayne Rooney
* Basque-ing in Manchester: Read about Mischa Wilmers' divided loyalties between United and Bilbao
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