Manchester United exited Europe after a 1-0 home defeat to Bayern Munich on Tuesday, capping off a disastrous Champions League campaign for the Red Devils.
The only goal for the Bundesliga champions, who had long since guaranteed their spot in the last 16, was scored by Kingsley Coman, leaving United without even the consolation of slipping into the Europa League.
An disappointing early exit from Europe’s best competition adds to the strain on manager Erik ten Hag, who currently finds himself in sixth place in the Premier League.
United’s Champions League ambitions were harmed long before Bayern arrived, as they failed to win three of their four games against Copenhagen and Galatasaray.
Copenhagen defeated Galatasaray 1-0 on Tuesday to join Bayern in the final 16 of the Champions League, with the Turkish giants finishing third.
“We didn’t lose it today, that’s clear,” Ten Hag stated.
“I believe we had chances in games (against Copenhagen and Galatasaray).” We were in a winning position; we scored a lot of goals, and then we gave it away.”
It is only the fourth time in Champions League history that an English team has finished bottom of their group.
Ten Hag’s disastrous season reached a new low on Saturday, when Bournemouth triumphed for the first time at Old Trafford, and with ease, winning 3-0.
Raphael Varane was recalled to the starting lineup for the first time in nearly two months by the former Ajax manager.
Ten Hag has surprisingly frozen out the Frenchman, but he is certain to play a significant role in the coming weeks after Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw were forced to be substituted during Tuesday’s action, adding to an already lengthy injury list.
“We’re losing players, and we’re losing players who are very decisive,” Ten Hag said, noting that he was also missing Marcus Rashford, Lisandro Martinez, and Casemiro.
“In many games it was the case in this campaign that we didn’t have players available.”
Bayern were virtually guaranteed to advance as Group A champions, but Thomas Tuchel’s team needed to prove themselves after a 5-1 thrashing at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
“It’s never comfortable at Old Trafford, but I think we deserved to win.” “We needed a reaction, and we got a reaction,” Tuchel added.
On his return to England, Harry Kane began and played a key part in the game-winning goal, teeing up Coman to smash past Andre Onana.
Absence of urgency
Bayern has been unbeaten in the Champions League group stages since 2017 and has set a competition record with nine consecutive away wins at this stage.
Despite this, the German behemoths rarely had to shift out of second gear as they prepare for the knockout stages in 2024.
“After the result at the weekend we had a really high motivation here,” Kane told reporters.
“I believe there could have been more in the final third.” We had a strong start to the season, but I believe we still have a few more gears to shift.”
There was no such justification for United’s lack of urgency as they exited with a whimper.
United’s only shot on goal was Shaw’s long-range effort, which Manuel Neuer easily saved.
Ten Hag’s troubles were exacerbated by the loss of Shaw at halftime and Maguire throughout the first half to suspected groin injuries.
United had a golden opportunity to go ahead early in the second half, but Bruno Fernandes’ reckless shot that soared high over the bar summed up his team’s lack of skill and poise in the final third.
Bayern were also far from their most fluid.
They needed just one quick move to win the game, though, as Kane turned Thomas Mueller’s pass into the path of Coman, who scored his fifth goal of the season 19 minutes from time.