Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Manchester United – as it happened
Join me, Ethan Dean-Richards, for Athletic Bilbao v Manchester United tonight. It’s the second leg of their Europa League clash, don’t you know. You can’t email me tonight because I don’t want you to. You’re welcome to try me on Twitter too, but I’m ignoring that as well. http://www.welloffside.com
Game over. A brilliant Athletic Bilbao have knocked Manchester United out of Europe and maybe taught them some lessons about football in doing so. It was easy to dismiss the Barcelona defeats as defeats to one of the greatest sides ever, but this time they’ve been made to look silly by merely a very very good side, which suggests that something else might be up: that they might have to learn to cope with this high pressing, perpetual motion football rather than just writing it off as the work of the greats.
In terms of just exiting Europe, of course, they’ll be less concerned. The Europa League was always a distraction from a very close Premier League title race and now it’s gone.
Onto to the next round of the competition, Athletic Bilbao will have to be one of the favourites to go very far. And good luck to them: their fans were great tonight: not just loud; fair too. They applauded Giggs, and Rooney’s goals, and every time the ball was played back to a team after they’d put it out for an injury.
That’s all from moi. Bye bye kiss kiss.
90mins. Three minutes of stoppage time. Let’s use them as three minutes’ silences for United’s time in Europe this season.
87mins. Wellbeck goes close from distance! The goalkeeper has to palm his low, curling shot away for a corner, which comes to nout. It’s for the best that that didn’t go in because United can’t be allowed to take any positives from these two games: they have to know that against quality such as Bilbao’s they come out looking like numpties.
86mins. Rafael gives away a corner he needn’t have after a slip in his own penalty area. Luckily for him, it comes to nothing.
83mins. Patrice Evra gives the ball away and De Marcos flashes the ball across United’s goal. They don’t deserve 2-1 in this; they don’t deserve 5-3 in the tie as a whole: they’ve been outclassed.
Goal! And what a goal! Wayne Rooney has done nothing today until now. He’s just knocked the ball past his marker on the edge of the area and curled it past the goalkeeper. The Bilbao fans applauded that – I like them, they seem nice.
There surely isn’t room for United to score two more, is there? There’s ten minutes to see.
78mins. Delicious one touch passing down the right for Bilbao and Herrera is played in. The angle is tight though and De Gea saves it well.
75mins. Rafael does well down the right for United and Cleverley is able to work a cross into the Bilbao box. It’s noteworthy, because I don’t remember the last time United had the ball in Bilbao’s half.
73mins. Ashley Young, who has done nothing in this half whatsoever, gives the ball away to Iriola whose ball into the penalty area finds Toquero’s bald head. He heads wide.
70mins. Maybe with time to digest this game – a couple of years – we’ll come to see this as a really low quality Manchester United side. I mean, we say that they’re not particularly outstanding champions of England, but a night like tonight, which at the moment feels like proving that Bilbao are simply fantastic, could end up as evidence that they really are turd at the moment. We might realise that people weren’t joking when they said that United had no midfield: they literally did have no midfield.
It’s a thought.
67mins. Welbeck is on for Giggs.
Goal! Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Manchester United (De Marcos) United are out. De Marcos’ shot is deflected off Evans past De Gea. It came at the end of another lightning fast move. They play it quicker than Barcelona: I think I like them more for that.
61mins. Smalling and Pogba are coming on for Ferdinand and Carrick. This might be United giving in a little and preparing for Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday. You might normally call that cowardice, but with 30minutes to go and not one reason to believe they’ll turn it around, you can’t blame them. Channel Five have just compared this to the Barcelona defeat at Wembley, and it really has felt like that.
59mins. Yellow card for Rafael for a handball. How naughty: he did that on purpose and everything.
Paul Pogba is coming on for Manchester United. I dare him to do something special here. Even if he doesn’t, he’s got nothing to live up to.
57mins. Passpasspasspasspasspasspasspasspass. Bilbao are in total control and they’ve missed another big chance – Toquero this time blasts one over from inside the area.
Almost an amazing goal! Iriola, the right back, dances around three United players – two of them by rolling the top of the ball with his studs – and then puts the shot, from about six yards out, wide. City fans might want that sped up and the Benny Hill theme added to it.
50mins. It’s hard to know whether you’re allowed to criticise United’s midfield against pressing this good. Giggs, Carrick and Cleverley have had no answers. Overall, I think that yes, they have been made to look bad, but they could have done more – they could have held onto the ball better and been cleverer with it when they’ve had it.
49mins. Bilbao are on top. United are stuck in their own half: Muniain and Ander Herrara are everywhere.
47mins. Bilbao have the first shot of the half. It’s not close; it’s one of yours.
Second half. United can afford to concede a second goal here, they’ll still need three to stay in the competition. They were out early at half time: somehow that kind of tactic feels outmoded against Bilbao’s kind. 45minutes to rescue their EUROPA LEAGUE ADVENTURE/reduce their chances of winning the league.
Making my apologies and leaving. That horrendous miss from a Bilbao player early on in that half wasn’t from Llorente, it was De Marcos. He’s not only missed, he’s made me look a cunt too. What a cunt.
To return, maybe gratuitously, to the point I made before the game about the lack of Berbatov here, I think he might have made a difference tonight. Maybe not much of one, but is there a chance that a few more players who can slow things down and be calm on the ball in the face of this relentless pressing would have been useful. Berbatov, therefore, might have been useful.
United can’t play at this speed, they need to play their own game. They could look to what Chelsea did last night if they wanted: Chelsea couldn’t compete with Napoli at football, so they made the game about set pieces and long balls…and ended up winning. There is time for them to score three goals, because Bilbao have looked a little vulnerable in the last fifteen minutes of that half. That said, I wouldn’t back them to make this a great comeback.
Half time. There’s pace throughout this Bilbao side and they’ve got the technique to go with it. United have struggled to live with them once again, just like last week, and you’d fancy the game to go the same way every single time these two met up. United can’t live with this kind of intensity, and that’s not going to change.
Young is so nearly in! United break away, Rooney moves infield from the left and makes room for Young’s run. When he plays it to him, Young is in on goal, but the defender is so quickly across that’s hard say that Young could have done any better.
39mins. Hmm, Llorente is off injured and replaced by Toquero. Big loss for Bilbao in one sense, but as we know from last week, Toquero is a trier in the best sense of the word – he’ll close anything down. The threat against them is reduced, but United are going to have to work even harder to get through Bibao now. I’ll not be putting my money on them getting the three they need.
36mins. Some pressure building for United. They’re moving the ball around just outside Bilbao’s area nicely; and it only needs to break well once for this kind of thing to turn into a goal. Bilbao should keep them away from there, because they’re good enough to do it.
34mins. Rooney is pushed in the area, but the ref ain’t givin’ that no way sir.
32mins. I wonder if, on nights like this, Sir Alex Ferguson is ever jealous. Because he’s one of the best managers ever, but he can’t organise a team this well, and when he comes against something like Bilbao or Barcelona, his team is always going to look a bit lightweight if they’re playing well.
28mins. More attacking from United, with short passes from Cleverley and Young starting to get them somewhere. Maybe with Hernandez on at some point as another worry for the Bilbao defence, they can be got to. Three goals is a huge ask though.
Channel Five are riffing on that Llorente goal, and they’re right to. It was a bit o’ class from a really, really sexual player.
Chance for United! Young finds room on the left and his cross loops to the back post, where Giggs was waiting. He waited, and waited, and waited, and then headed against the defender’s back and over. The corner comes to nothing, because Evra fouls the keeper. Maybe Bilbao are vulnerable once you get past the pressing to the centre backs.
25mins. United have been outclassed so far. It’s that simple. I don’t think they’ve got it in their legs to play as well as Bilbao have so far here.
Full on the volley, Llorente has just scored a brilliant goal. The ball came from about forty yards away, drifted over Rio Ferdinand’s head and Llorente gave it the beans to put it into the bottom corner. De Gea had no chance and now United owe three goals to a side who don’t look like letting up one bit.
GOAL! Llorente with a stunner!
18mins. Finally United manage to slow it down a little. Bilbao never let them have it easy though, and they get nowhere. It’s quite odd that a side this good isn’t higher up in La Liga. They’re full of good players and they’re so precise with how they use them, and yet they lost to Osasuna this weekend. I don’t get it, boss. They can’t be this good, this intense, all the time – I just won’t have that.
14mins. Bilbao hit the post! And then Llorente misses a huge chance to tap in the rebound! Javi Martinez moved forward from centre back and United simply let him go. By the time he’d moved it off for Muniain to have a shot, I think United had all pissed off home. He’s unlucky to hit the post, but how Llorente failed to tap the ball in afterwards I don’t know. Maybe he’s shit after all?
12mins. Bilbao are currently eighth in La Liga.
10mins. Lots of good stuff from United. Young, Park, Rooney and Cleverley are all looking to combine high up the pitch. Obviously, the result is that they’re more open than they might be normally at the back. That, though, is a sacrifice you have to make once you’ve cocked up the first leg of a two-legged tie.
7mins. Susaeta finds room in United’s penalty area, but his deflected shot ain’t going nowhere, bub, except De Gea’s arms. This is fast paced stuff, United’s responses to being broken open so easily are to throw men forward on the counter and move the ball early. Young is released in the penalty area and the defender gets a great block in.
I’m having pasta with tonight’s game. It’s fine.
5mins. Poor cross from Park for United ends an attack in which United had numbers forward. On Twitter, a few United fans seemed unhappy at him playing and I probably am too: he’s an excellent player, but he’s built for caution, not heroic two-goal wins away in Spain against a fearless Bielsa-led team.
3mins. The free kick is deflected wide off the wall. That was close. Carrick gave away a foul on the edge of the area there after a poor Ferdinand pass. It doesn’t need saying that United don’t need to be doing that. A couple of Athletic corners come to nothing.
2mins. Free kick to Bilbao, who I might call Athletico as a joke from now on, I haven’t decided. The atmosphere is excellent – ie loud.
Kick off. United need to score at least two goals here and immediately Rooney is almost in. The ball is fizzed down the wing and Rooney gets onto it – he’s too far wide though, and he just hits an aimless pass into the middle. Maybe it was a shot.
I’m furious at everything right now. My watch was being a cunt a minute a go. Well, I assume it was a minute; my watch isn’t here anymore to tell me. RIP, but at least I have the hammer as a friend now. If this game doesn’t get good quite quick, we’ll see what we can do together against the TV.
Alternative preamble. My day today has been a shitter. I’m currently stuck in the twilight zone between the end of my university term and going back to Birmingham for Easter, so I’ve been left with nothing to do but consider how shit everything is. But it’s worse, I asked someone’s agent to do an interview with them a couple of months ago; they’ve just asked me if I want to use a syndicated one and phrased it as if they’re doing me a favour. Cheers!
Several other bad things happened on top of this, but I’m not one to talk about myself too much so I’ll leave it there. Well, I say I’ll leave it there. What I mean is that I’ll revisit each shit bit one by one throughout this game. Who cares anyway, no-one’s reading this.
Preamble. Dimi Berbatov doesn’t make the bench for Manchester United’s last chance at European competition this season, away at Athletic Bilbao. Unless he’s actually died, that is an abject disgrace. Alex Ferguson paid £30million to have Berbatov in his squad, and he still hasn’t earned him. Ferguson should never have signed the kind of player that he no longer has the guts to use; he’s wasted three years of a brilliant footballer’s career, and thieved them from everyone who might have enjoyed watching them. If I’m Berbatov, and I think I might be, I’d make sure I left on a free at the end of this season in an act of revenge.
The lack of Berbatov tonight isn’t the only disappointment: without Antonio Valencia, United lack pace. When they play without Valencia United seem to rely on other players clicking – they’re either on or off – but when they’ve got him in the side they’ve got a reliable source of dynamism; someone whose flick, run and cross is the perfect fallback option if nothing else is doing the job.
So then, United will need to click tonight. Last week Athletic Bilbao looked a brilliantly organised team, with all of their energy directed into the right places, and if United don’t play very, very well here tonight, they’ll lose badly. Given how comfortably Bilbao smothered them in the last game, I can’t see them putting in the performance they require to not only win, but also turn around that 3-2 home defeat.
I hope I’m wrong though, because Chelsea’s game against Napoli last night was a great watch, and seeing even those utter shithouses turn around a deficit in a really open game was good fun. More of that tonight will do nicely. 4-2 United win, anyone?
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz, Aurtenetxe, Amorebieta, Javi Martinez, Iraola; De Marcos, Iturraspe; Ander Herrera, Muniain, Llorente, Susaeta.
Substitutes: Raul, Toquero, San Jose, David Lopez, Inigo Perez, Ekiza, Ibai.
Manchester Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley, Giggs; Park, Rooney, Young.
Substitutes: Amos, Smalling, Hernández, Welbeck, Fábio Da Silva, Scholes, Pogba.