Man United ‘careless’ in Champions League group stages – Sir Alex
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson admits his side were made to pay for "careless" performances in the Champions League
Sir Alex Ferguson admits Manchester United’s premature exit from the Champions League was the result of “careless” performances.
United host Athletic Bilbao in the last-16 of the Europa League on Thursday night after being parachuted down into Europe’s second tier competition following their third-place finish in Champions League Group C.
And the United manager conceded that his side made mistakes in the group stages and said the Red Devils had no choice but to take all of the blame for their disappointing exit.
“I don’t know if it’s because we’re making too many changes in these games,” Ferguson said. “Certainly against Ajax in the second leg we did that. We also made mistakes in the group stages. It’s our own fault. The Basel game will always be remembered for the carelessness of our performance.
“We were a bit unlucky against Benfica at home but, at that point, we needed to beat them. It was a disappointment but tomorrow [against Bilbao] I’m playing a strong team and I hope that makes a difference.”
Ferguson has also warned his side not to underestimate their Spanish opponents at Old Trafford on Thursday.
“It’s a very difficult tie,” he continued. “All the work Bilbao have done has been very impressive. They’re a very progressive team in Spain at the moment and it’s going to be very difficult for us. We need to waken up, there’s not question about that. Some of our European form has been disapppointing.
“But it’s an opportunity to progress and we want to take that opportunity, although it’s going to need a very good performance.”
Pre-match facts: Manchester United v Athletic Bilbao
• Should United win the Europa League they will be only the fourth side to have taken all three of Uefa’s major club trophies, joining Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
• Bilbao have reached the round of 16 for the third time since the advent of the Uefa Cup group stage, having lost out in the round of 32 to FK Austria Wien in 2005 and Anderlecht at the same stage in 2010.
• If United win the Europa League, Sir Alex Ferguson will be the third coach to have won all three of Uefa’s major club competitions, after Giovanni Trapattoni and Udo Lattek.
• The next goal Bilbao let in will be the 100th they have conceded in the Uefa Cup and Europa League; this will be their 80th game in the two competitions.