Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: United chief culprits on sorry night for Manchester

What an embarrassment for Manchester. City and United. They may be top dogs at home, but they are flops of the highest order abroad with both going out of the Champions League.

The who cares tournament that is the Europa League, Channel Five and Thursday nights await for them.

The shame of it all. And before anyone gripes about the pair of them being unfortunate, forget it. They deserved to be eliminated from Europe's premier club competition. Bottom line — they simply weren't good enough.

We knew that entering the final round of group games last night City were in serious danger, but for United to go out as well was a stunning development.

City's defining match came in Naples a few weeks ago when sloppy errors cost them in a 2-1 defeat. Last night they beat an understrength Bayern Munich 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium, but that meant nothing with Napoli winning in Villarreal to clinch runners-up spot in Group A.

All that money and no Champions League football to show for it.

At least City can say they are just getting used to playing at this level after years in the wilderness. United, finalists in three of the last four years, have no such excuses.

Criminally they won only two games out of six in what was an easy group, and those were against little Hungarian outfit Gelati. Even Moyola Park would fancy taking them on.

Last night they didn't even need to beat Basle in Switzerland to qualify for the last 16. All that was required was a draw, but they couldn't even manage that as the home side won 2-1.

Yes, United were missing key players through injury and suspension, yet still had enough on the pitch to comfortably progress. This was Basle they were playing, not Barcelona.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be fuming with his players because they let him down badly, with Wayne Rooney the chief culprit.

He was dreadfully out of sorts when United needed him most, missing a sitter from a couple of yards in the first half. Playing like this, England would be advised to leave him at home for Euro 2012 regardless of whether his three match ban is reduced by Uefa today or not.

Rooney wasn't alone in delivering a desperate display. Goalkeeper David De Gea had a shocker, at fault for Basle's first goal and hardly covering himself in glory for their second. Ji-Sung Park, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Chris Smalling were useless too.

United had plenty of possession but not nearly enough craft. How they needed a player like summer transfer target Wesley Sneijder.

Basle rode their luck, but battled for their lives, and merited the greatest night in their history. For United it goes down as one of their worst.

So much for the might of Manchester and English football.

Belfast Telegraph

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