“Resilience” to take United through in Bilbao tie

March 15, 2012 Tags: , Matches 79 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson certainly talks a good game, praising his side’s durability ahead of Manchester United’s crucial Europa League second leg clash with Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night. United will need resilience and more, with Ferguson’s side, 3-2 down from the first leg at Old Trafford, needing to win by two clear goals – or score four – at San Mames. Given the vibrancy with Athletic attacked last week, United will need to pull off one of the side’s finest European away performances of recent years to progress.

The Reds’ home defeat to the Basque outfit was the second successive turnover at Old Trafford in the competition, and comes after a European season in which the Reds have conspicuously failed, after reaching three Champions League finals in the past four years.

Despite the campaign’s comparative failures, and the size of the task ahead, Ferguson believes United’s durability will take the club through to a quarter-final spot. However, the Scot’s side will have to do so without several players, including Anderson, Phil Jones and Nani, who were left in Manchester.  Chris Smalling is unlikely to be risked from the start after a head wound opened up in spectacular style in last week’s encounter.

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia and French teenager Paul Pogba travelled with the squad Spain and could play some part. Tom Cleverley is again likely to be left on the bench, as was the 22-year-old midfielder for United’s weekend victory over West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford.

“We keep carrying on and it points to a resilience in the team that is really admirable,” Ferguson said on Wednesday.

“They have done exceptionally well. It is an achievement in the sense of they’re still hanging in there. We still can win this game tomorrow and I think the players believe that. It’s a difficult tie for us. Bilbao have a tremendous advantage now, so it’s a challenge – but not one that is beyond us. Our record away from home in Europe helps us. We have done really well the last few years away from home but it’s going to need a good performance.”

Indeed, United hasn’t turned around a first leg defeat in European competition since 2007, beating Roma 7-1 at Old Trafford in the Champions League. But the Reds may have to change a defensive-minded philosophy away from Old Trafford that has brought success, but may simply invite Athletic to reprise the exciting possession-based attacking game of last week’s encounter.

Ferguson may gamble on his senior pros at San Mames, with Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick all likely to start at San Mames. United faces Wolverhampton Wanderers away at Molineux on Sunday, and Ferguson has a fine line to trend between progressing in the Europa League and gambling the Reds’ domestic ambitions. He has consistently rotated his resources in European competition this season.

Athletic Club Bilbao versus Manchester United, Europa League, San Mames, 15 March 2012, 6pmDespite defeat to Bilbao, confidence is high in the camp after United reached the Premier League summit at the weekend. With City losing, United now controls the title race for the first time since the autumn.

And winger Ashley Young, who has recently returned to something approaching his late summer form, says that United’s team spirit could be the foundation for an unlikely result in Spain. Young scored twice in United’s recent victory over Tottenham Hotspur and again impressed in the weekend win against West Brom.

“It is unusual that we find ourselves in this position but there is a great team spirit here and everyone is full of confidence,” said the 26-year-old former Aston Villa star.

“Our form in general makes us believe we can score wherever we play. Our attacking play has been fantastic of late and we believe we can score the two goals we need. Our focus has not changed from the start of the season. We want to win every competition we enter and the Europa League is no different.

“Bilbao were an impressive team last week. They were a very attacking team, had a good team shape and at times we found them hard to break down. But I am sure if we are on our game 100% we can go there and get the win we need.”

Meanwhile, Athletic manager Marcelo Bielsa is again likely use the outstanding midfielder Javi Martínez in defence, albeit in a role that offers extensive license to roam. Martínez exemplified the committed attacking approach Bilbao offered at Old Trafford, frequently pushing into midfield as the visitors dominated possession and territory.

Attackers Iker Muniain, Markel Susaeta and Fernando Llorente will again look to trouble a United back-four that looked anything but assured at Old Trafford. Indeed, Ferguson’s side will need to adopt a new approach to countering Bilbao more successfully than last week.

Despite the outstanding performance at Old Trafford, Bilbao was beaten 2-1 by Ossasuna at the weekend; it is consistency that coach Bielsa says is most difficult for those clubs outside Spain’s duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Bielsa has led Bilbao to fifth in La Liga, despite a policy of recruiting only local players – or those players with a local connection – and a tiny budget by United’s standards. Modest to the last, the former Chile and Argentina coach refuses to take any personal credit for the club’s recent progress.

“The difference in points and finance is there for everyone to see,” said the Argentine.

“But I also believe that on one night or in one match a team like Athletic can get very close to the level of opponents such as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United. However, to maintain that throughout an entire league season is extremely difficult.

“There is no prestige to coaching a national side or beating Manchester United. Personal things like that do not concern me. They do not last very long. The evaluation of anything has to be done over the long-term, not the short. And we still have another very important 90 minutes ahead of us.”

Could there be an omen in history for United, even if the odds appear stacked against progression? The clubs’ only previous meetings came over 50 years ago in the quarter-finals of the European Cup – Bilbao beat Sir Matt Busby’s United 5-3 in Spain, only to lose the return fixture 3-0 at Maine Road.

To repeat that feat United will have to build on a poor record in Spain, with the Reds having won only twice in the club’s history against Spanish opposition, on Spanish soil. There’s no time like the present to buck that trend, although in one of the most atmospheric Spanish stadiums, nicknamed The Cathedral by locals, it may take a minor miracle from Ferguson’s men.

Match Facts
Athletic Club Bilbao versus Manchester United, Europa League, San Mames, 15 March 2012, 6pm

Possible Teams
Bilbao: (4-1-4-1): Iraizoz; Iraola, Martínez, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe; Iturraspe, de Marcos, Herrera; Susaeta, Llorente, Muniain. Subs from: San Jose, Oscar; López, Del Campo, Raúl, Toquero, Pérez, Gomez, Ekiza.

United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Park; Rooney; Welbeck. Subs from: Amos, Fabio, Smalling, Pogba, Cleverley, Young, Giggs, Berbatov, Owen, Hernandez

Form
United: WLWWLW
Bilbao: LWDWWL

Officials
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)
Assistant referees: Tarik Ongun, Mustafa Eyisoy
Additional assistant referees: Hüseyin Göçek, Bülent Yıldırım

79 comments

danniitronix - March 15, 2012 Reply

should be a cracking game, 1-3 United

Ed - March 15, 2012 Reply

Confirmed starting XI: De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Park, Cleverley, Carrick, Giggs, Young, Rooney

redevil_83 - March 15, 2012 Reply

united’s got to abandon the 4-4-2 approach in europe. we have good CMs but not near quality enough to compete against the best sides in europe. 4-3-3 in recent years has brought us tremendous success in europe and i hope gaffer will revert to it. young’s got to play he’s in fine nick at the moment. united can give a fantastic fight here and if bilba still prevail (which on basis of old trafford performance i still reckon they will) then hats off to the basque team

premier lg more important than europa. can’t suffer injury or fatigue today vamos you red devils

redevil_83 - March 15, 2012 Reply

that’s the confirmed line up yeah? looks dees. hope valencia can make an impact off the bench. i don’t know if we’ve got enough goal scorers in there to be fair

ghost - March 15, 2012 Reply

Bench: Amos, Smalling, Hernandez, Fabio, Scholes, Pogba, Welbeck

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

no berba?
no tony v?
well i guess its going to be hard enough
they will press from the off and i will be amazed if we pull this off tonight

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

park is pissing me off now

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

oh well
that looks like curtains

madmax - March 15, 2012 Reply

we just don’t belong here. They are superior in every way and have far more hunger.

danniitronix - March 15, 2012 Reply

Taggart is going to crack a few heads at half. Miserable

brianofnazareth - March 15, 2012 Reply

danniitronix said:
Taggart is going to crack a few heads at half. Miserable

I used to think that as well, those days have gone…he doesn’t bring the fear anymore and twat head MP goes around the changing rooms telling them ” we can do this” FFS

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

they are a very good side and play the way we used to play a few seasons back
a credit to their league

DamnedUnited - March 15, 2012 Reply

The way Barcelona withstand pressing is to draw fouls. United have always been poor at this and combined with poor ball control by individual players, they have always succumbed to sustained pressing.

Although, Bilbao have become ultra defensive and it would help to bring on Welbeck and Berbatov. In place of Park and Rafael maybe? Go for a back 3?

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
The way Barcelona withstand pressing is to draw fouls. United have always been poor at this and combined with poor ball control by individual players, they have always succumbed to sustained pressing.

Although, Bilbao have become ultra defensive and it would help to bring on Welbeck and Berbatov. In place of Park and Rafael maybe? Go for a back 3?

be a tad impossible to put berba on seeing as though he isn’t named as a sub
not wanting to be negative as there are 45 mins left, but we look out of this game

DamnedUnited - March 15, 2012 Reply

Yeah, didn’t see that when I wrote. Hernandez then? But his ball control is lacking. For now.

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

Just got in

Are we being shit?

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

sidney said:
Just got in

Are we being shit?

not being shit
just not enough quality and pressing but they scored a very good goal
since then we actually look better but every time we get even so much as a sniff, there are 5 bilbao players swarming around us
fantastic work rate

Spudiator - March 15, 2012 Reply

This one really is gonna take a miracle to get us through. It’s bad enough when Barcelona outclass us, they’re almost certainly the best team in the world so it’s to be expected, but a 7th-placed (domestically) side managing it too is just embarrassing!

Bit disappointed to see no half-time subs, evidently something needs to be changed. If I was Fergie I’d bring on Chicharito for Park, and maybe bring in Pogba too. We’ve got nothing to lose at this stage, and if anyone would show a bit of desire and determination to prove themselves, surely it’d be him!

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

han said:
not being shit
just not enough quality and pressing but they scored a very good goal
since then we actually look better but every time we get even so much as a sniff, there are 5 bilbao players swarming around us
fantastic work rate

Same as the first leg then

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

How the fuck did he miss that… Great run, embarassing finish

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

that would have been a fantastic goal just then for them
ricky villa like in 81

brianofnazareth - March 15, 2012 Reply

R.I.P RIO FERDINAND FFS!!
LOLOL

It saddens me how our quality has dropped so low!

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

the gimps need to stop raping our finances and give us some decent whack to get some quality or else we will continue looking shite in europe

brianofnazareth - March 15, 2012 Reply

Fuck me Rooney…. dropped your head like that just spreads through the squad…you’re a embarrassment! It would take us 200+ Million to get this squad on top of Europe again!

ichiro - March 15, 2012 Reply

this is hard to watch

brianofnazareth - March 15, 2012 Reply

Serious question…can any of you remembered being as embarrassed as this whilst watching united?

Simon - March 15, 2012 Reply

Yeah, Man City at Old Trafford this season.

Tonight, we give the ball away too easily, we don’t press enough, we are not hungry for this tie and Bilbao are. Basel got hammered in Germany. We made them look like Barcelona. Unimpressed with Cleverley and all our hope is on him! Raphael is shoddy in defence. Giggs has some useless games. Rooney is not that good really, is he? Although, we are much worse without him. Still can’t believe we are top of the league – English football must be pretty crap! I don’t really care about the UEFA Cup, but I do care that we have looked such a poor side in Europe this season.

Simon - March 15, 2012 Reply

I meant Rafael, but then he does play like a turtle in defence at times.

ghost - March 15, 2012 Reply

Fucking depressing, this.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

brianofnazareth said:
Serious question…can any of you remembered being as embarrassed as this whilst watching united?

fuck off
i can give you 3 games just this season

squigs - March 15, 2012 Reply

United are not trying. Cleverley can stay injured, he looks hopeless at European level.

ichiro - March 15, 2012 Reply

Question for next season – how are we going to catch up with Athletic Bilbao?

brianofnazareth - March 15, 2012 Reply

PARK
CLEVERLY
YOUNG
FERDINAND
EVANS

ARE.NOT.GOOD.ENOUGH.

Class reaction from the Bilbao fans for Giggs!

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

fucking hell
i can remember euro away nights when we played like bilbao
shame its come down to this

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

brianofnazareth said:
PARK
CLEVERLY
YOUNG
FERDINAND
EVANS

ARE.NOT.GOOD.ENOUGH.

Class reaction from the Bilbao fans for Giggs!

aye
but you’ll still be the 1st in the queue to suck them off if they get a winner in any of the next 1o games

brianofnazareth - March 15, 2012 Reply

Agreed.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

aye
but you’ll still be the 1st in the queue to suck them off if they get a winner in any of the next 1o games

brianofnazareth said:
Agreed.

Pikey McScum - March 15, 2012 Reply

I’ve been proper impressed by Bilbao – great players, great teamwork, great stadium, great fans.

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

The only area where they’re a bit shit is in front of goal
They’ve missed some sitters

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

i guess that earlier post was right about united not trying
either that or the realisation theres no point

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

come back on
rooooooooooooooooooooooooney
fucking goal and some

madmax - March 15, 2012 Reply

fuckinell what a shot

Simon - March 15, 2012 Reply

Perhaps Rooney is good sometimes. Nice goal.

blackknight - March 15, 2012 Reply

Class crowd. Reaction to Giggs was awesome!

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

quality fans these bilbao

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

Giving Giggs a standing ovation was a classy touch

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

evra is a fucking liability most games these days

dozer - March 15, 2012 Reply

He doesn’t seem to care to defend, he should go next season

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

rafael is another anderson waiting to happen unless someone kicks the shit outta him

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

their manager might be mad but he sure as fuck knows how to bring the best out of his players – wouldn’t mind him trying his hand in england

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

hope that they go on to win the trophy
definite credit to the game

dozer - March 15, 2012 Reply

han said:
rafael is another anderson waiting to happen unless someone kicks the shit outta him

he’s fine, he’s played well for us most of the time, he’ll have some off days like today, but he was still better than what Jones would have been today.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

dozer said:
he’s fine, he’s played well for us most of the time, he’ll have some off days like today, but he was still better than what Jones would have been today.

believe it or not, i don’t cream my boxers over jones unlike uncle and his knobfeelers on here

ichiro - March 15, 2012 Reply

positives…none

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

han said:
their manager might be mad but he sure as fuck knows how to bring the best out of his players – wouldn’t mind him trying his hand in england

They do the things English teams think they do well – but they do them better. They’re quicker, stronger, more fiesty… And they’re more skillful, they pass and move, they find space, they attack space. They would out battle Stoke and out play Arsenal (not hard).
Their fans are louder too.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
positives…none

i disagree
we didn’t get a metatarsal injury or 2

DamnedUnited - March 15, 2012 Reply

Probably a good thing to go out with 10 games left to play in the league. I just wonder why Fergie prioritises Europe when the squad is not the strongest we’ve had.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

sidney said:
They do the things English teams think they do well – but they do them better. They’re quicker, stronger, more fiesty… And they’re more skillful, they pass and move, they find space, they attack space. They would out battle Stoke and outplay Arsenal (not hard).
Their fans are louder too.

aye Sid – totally agree with that but its a long way we have fallen down the pecking order – i thought our worst euro campaign was 2005/6 but this comes pretty close

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

now to watch city go thru……..

dozer - March 15, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
Probably a good thing to go out with 10 games left to play in the league. I just wonder why Fergie prioritises Europe when the squad is not the strongest we’ve had.

Did he say that United would have made the Champions league final if we had qualified?

sheesh - March 15, 2012 Reply

han said:
their manager might be mad but he sure as fuck knows how to bring the best out of his players – wouldn’t mind him trying his hand in england

Agreed. Now I’m not sure I want Jose when I’ve seen what bielsa has created at Bilbao.

Happy we are out but didn’t want us to get schooled like that. Much to ponder for Fergie.

Just goes to show the gulf in class between English and Spanish teams.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

SAF not looking too pissed off
lets go win the league ffs

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

han said:
aye Sid – totally agree with that but its a long way we have fallen down the pecking order – i thought our worst euro campaign was 2005/6 but this comes pretty close

English teams have in general. In 2008 we had 3 teams in the semis. Now we have 1 team in the quaters.

And the national team is at an all time low. They would get destroyed by the kind of football we saw tonight. Even we managed to score 3, which flattered us.

Spudiator - March 15, 2012 Reply

Well that was depressing. Hard to take any consolation really, Athletic Bilbao were admittedly very impressive, but United were just woefully impotent, and I hate to say it, but we got exactly what we deserved.

captain-fletcher - March 15, 2012 Reply

This is shit, here I stand, gonna light up the world, I feel grand

sheesh - March 15, 2012 Reply

At end of the game, Athletic fans turned to our United fans & clapped and then sang “United”. This is according to what I read on another forum.

What an awesome club all round.

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

sheesh said:
At end of the game, Athletic fans turned to our United fans & clapped and then sang “United”. This is according to what I read on another forum.

What an awesome club all round.

there is some history of a love in going back to the game in the 1950s i read somewhere;
still, a massive credit to the game and i will definitely have a soft spot for them for the remainder of this season and beyond

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

bitters conspiring to lose at the council tip

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

Class that, Sheesh
Sporting 1-0, away goal, 2-0 on aggregate
City don’t want it. They can’t be arsed

han - March 15, 2012 Reply

fucking bollox
0-2 now
citeh being fucked massively
need 4

sheesh - March 15, 2012 Reply

All we need is Balotelli to start a mass punch up in the City dressing room at half time.

Pikey McScum - March 15, 2012 Reply

captain-fletcher said:
This is shit, here I stand, gonna light up the world, I feel grand

Insightful analysis

Have you been working at OPTA long?

sidney - March 15, 2012 Reply

This would be a good game for Tevez to come in and cause shit

Ed - March 15, 2012 Reply

Good job I didn’t say “quality” would take us through in the headline…because it only came from the home side. what an utter crock of shit. All the excuses in the world can’t polish the turd that is United’s European campaign this season – outplayed in turn by Basel, Benfica, Ajax and Bilbao. Even Otelul Galati gave us a decent game for an hour.

Worse… players just didn’t care tonight. And they should be embarrassed how much the Bilbao players did it for themselves, their manager and their fans.

19 and Counting - March 16, 2012 Reply

SAF’s comments said it all. Our European form has been woeful and he knows it. I don’t know if he’ll go for Hazard this summer, but you can bet the house that he’ll improve the squad because he knows deep down that we are nowhere near Barcelona.

Having said that, perhaps going out of the Europa is a blessing and now we can focus on the league. There’s no coincidence that both Manchester clubs are out.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - March 16, 2012 Reply

park was in centre midfield
i dont understand why this keeps happening

LKHF

faffing

uncleknobheadforfucksake - March 16, 2012 Reply

are we gonna just wait for wayne to score from now on and if he dont were fucked, why is no one else scoring

LKHF

faffing

triggs - March 16, 2012 Reply

The stupidist thing is if we don’t care, why are we not at least playing players who have something to prove to the manager, e.g. Berba and Pogba? Ridiculous.

What was the point of playing Rooney? He very nearly picked up an ankle injury last night.

DeadRevel - March 16, 2012 Reply

Why didn’t Berba play? Only player we have who can keep the ball indefinitely. Instead we play PARK. Park is poor against weak opposition and poor against passing / pressing teams like Bilbao / Barca. He is only useful against teams like Chelsea / Arsenal / Spurs etc. Good sides but not great.

Clev was shit last night but nothing to do with his ability. I’ve never seen him play that bad before. He was great against City, Spurs and Arsenal. Just needs game time. That was a baptism of fire last night for a midfielder returning from injury. Probably did him more harm than good. Another Europa fuck up from Fergie.

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