Ferguson´s ´disappointing year´ comes to an end
Sir Alex Ferguson admits Athletic Bilbao deserved their Europa League win as Manchester United's "disappointing year" in Europe continued.
Only Wayne Rooney's late consolation prevented United suffering the worst two-legged European defeat in Ferguson's entire time as manager as the red Devils crashed out 5-3 on aggregate to Marcelo Bielsa's side.
It is the first time since 2004 that United have lost three successive matches in Europe, and Ferguson admitted his side had been "pretty poor".
"Trying to analyse this season against others is a bit difficult," he said. "There is a route in terms of some of the goals we have lost in these tournaments. They have been pretty poor."
"It has been a disappointing year."
United will not have long to dwell on their European disaster however, needing to defend their slender one point lead over rivals Manchester City in the Premier League when they travel to Wolves on Sunday.
"Feeling sorry for myself is not an issue for me," Ferguson said. "There is a disappointment but analysing the performances is more important and we have an important game on Sunday."
Spanish international Fernando Llorente got Bilbao off to the perfect start when he latched on to a long ball from goalkeeper Rui Patricio and fired past David De Gea on the volley, before Oscar de Marcos sealed the win with a deflected shot in the second half.
Ferguson said Bilbao thoroughly deserved their win, and had no doubt Bielsa's side could go all the way in the competition.
"I don't think we can complain at the result," Ferguson said. "In the second half in particular, Bilbao were the better team."
"Their first goal was a bad one for us to lose. You can't believe an English team would lose a goal like that to a long ball. Ours was too late to do anything about it."
"Athletic could do very well. What we have seen, tonight and last Thursday, is a team whose workrate is higher than anyone I have seen in Europe."
"I would like to wish them well. I hope they do win it because it is a testament to the hard work they all put in, from their coach right through."
Chelsea are now the only English team left in European competition this season, but Athletic coach Bielsa said he did not think there was an inherent problem with that.
"Victory against a team like Manchester United cannot be ignored," Bielsa said. "But I don't have any reason to think it has happened because English football is too insular."