Athletic Bilbao did not steal their qualification to the next round of the Europa League, as the Spanish side gave United yet another footballing lesson in the return leg and winning 2-1 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate. United were simply not worthy of playing in Europe this season, and I believe a major overhaul is required in the current squad to get the team rolling again in competitions like the Champions League and Europa League. Athletic Bilbao were simply too good to resist, with a highly technical football on display, just like the one Barcelona or Real Madrid play, and still despite being 7th in their respective league table, and this is why may be the usually virile physical attitude adopted in English football does not stand in front of the technical and pacy attitude adopted by Spanish teams. To have players racing in from all sides to collect passes and create chances for one another, as well as pressing the opposition throughout the game is just a beautiful sight to behold…
The Spanish side always looked in control from kickoff, and created the first real opportunity of the match through Muniain, but his shot hit the right post and came out, and the follow up by De Marcos flew well over. Yet United were left unresponsive, and with only Rooney upfront, it was a tough task to really muster an attack on Bilbao’s goal, they were dictating the pace to United, which had to follow sheepishly. Bilbao’s prolific striker, Llorente, eventually scored on the 23rd minute following a long cross from his team-mate, and he let fly an unstoppable volley past De Gea to almost seal his side’s passage to the next round. 1-0 at half time, with United left looking as if they took sleeping pills before coming in the game.
The second half saw no change from the first one, as Bilbao kept the game in control, and even added a second on 65th minute through De Marcos, and before that, Iraola gave a brilliant show of his skills by toying around with United’s defense, only to drag his shot inches wide of the post, if that was in it would surely have been among the goals of the season all competitions involved. Rooney then managed to score one for consolation, as he sent in a beautiful shot past Iraizoz from the edge of the box on the 80th minute, a goal which even left the Bilbao fans applauding, knowing that their side was almost safe and with United producing almost nothing.
United’s disappointment could be sensed since they concede the first half goal, and even Fergie had enough of the game when he decided to take off Ferdinand, Giggs and Carrick to send on Smalling, Pogba and Welbeck, leaving the likes of Scholes and Chicharito on the bench, may be thinking to go all out for the Premier League instead as from Sunday, but still it does not justify the tactics and formation he put in place for this match if he really wanted to win it. So as United bids farewell to the Europa League, let’s hope a better ending awaits them in the Premier League, or else finish the season trophyless.