Manchester United skipper Patrice Evra has accused his Manchester United team-mates of overconfidence ahead of a European campaign that turned out to be “a disaster”.
United crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday night, losing 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao, who completed a 5-3 aggregate win.
Given the way they were so comprehensively outplayed at Old Trafford seven days earlier, it was possibly the least surprising aspect of a dismal season in UEFA competition. United managed only three wins in 10 games across two tournaments.
They were turfed out of the Champions League by a Basle side that conceded seven goals to Bayern Munich on Tuesday and almost contrived to throw away a three-goal aggregate lead on home soil against Ajax.
It could also be claimed they got away lightly against Bilbao, when they only avoided the heaviest two-legged European defeat of Alex Ferguson’s entire time in charge thanks to Wayne Rooney’s late consolation.
Ferguson himself could offer no reasons for such lacklustre performances from a team that had reached the Champions League final in three of the last four years.
But Evra, stand-in skipper in the continued absence of Nemanja Vidic, pulled no punches.
“From the beginning it was a disaster, first in the Champions League, the Europa League now,” said the France defender.
“We have to tell the truth. We never played well and we are out.
“We never played with the same desire that we played in the league in Europe this year. We have to accept that.
“Maybe we were too confident at the beginning of the Champions League.
“We thought we would go through and we went out against Basle.
“It has been a bad year in Europe for Manchester United. We have to agree with that. You can see the difference. We have been more focused on the league.
“Now we have to win the league to save our season. If we don’t, it will have been a really bad season.”
Evra added: “We have to be honest with ourselves, we don’t deserve to be in the Champions League and the Europa League.”
Although Ferguson confirmed that with the tie lost, he had opted to replace Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs in readiness for tomorrow’s trip to Wolves, when Paul Scholes and, possibly, Phil Jones will return, the wonder was he left Rooney to complete the full 90 minutes.
United can only hope the fact their 27-goal marksman completed the game, and scored again, after taking a heavy knock late in the contest from which he took some time to get up, is an indication the damage is minimal.
The Red Devils need Rooney at Molineux, where they lost last year but know the prize on offer this time is a four-point lead over Manchester City, who do not take on England’s only remaining European representatives, Chelsea, until Wednesday.
“Of course we can bounce back,” said Evra.
“I am not worried about the league because we have always done well.
“Now we are at the top of the league, we don’t want to be second.
“We have to focus on Wolves. It is a big game, a massive game. We have to make sure we win.
“A big club like Manchester United should be able to compete in every competition.”
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