Both Manchester United and Manchester City crashed out of the Europa League last night, losing out to Athletic Bilbao and Sportling Lisbon.
Manchester United were defeated 2-1 by Athletic, raising the aggregate to 5-3 in what was an embarrassingly thorough domination of Sir Alex Ferguson's squad. Meanwhile, Manchester City actually won their game 3-2 and equalised the aggregate at 3-3, but lost out to Sporting on Away goals.
While it could be said that the Europa League trophy would be nothing more than a consolation prize following their exit from the Champions League, the fact remains that both teams (who occupy both the first and second positions in the Premier League lest we forget) should have progressed further than they did.
Speaking after the match Sir Alex Ferguson told the press that he felt United's loss was due to poor defending, saying: At the start of the second half they could have scored two or three goals, they had us on the back foot for most of those first 20 minutes.
“I don’t think we can complain about the result. I think that, in the second half in particular, Bilbao were the better team.”
He also admitted the club's Premier League game against Wolves on Sunday had caused him to alter the team's line-up, saying: “We have a very important game against Wolves. There will be changes, that’s why we took Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs off.”
On the other hand, Manchester City staged a miraculous comeback from being 0-2 down in their game against Sportling Lisbon to take the 3-2 victory, equalising the aggregate at 3-3. Unfortunately for City, Sporting Lisbon won the set on account of their away goals.
After finding themselves 0-2 down in half-time, City came back following the interval energised and ambitious, with Sergio Aguero scoring 2 and Balotelli tucking away a penalty to give City the upper hand.
The tense match was epitomised when goalkeeper Joe Hart made his way to the oppositions' penalty box and made a last grasp for victory with a header that almost made its way into the back of the net, but it wasn't to be.
City manager Roberto Mancini blamed himself for the loss, saying: "When one manager doesn't prepare the game well or whatever it is, when I lose the game, I think why I lost.
"It is not the players' fault, it is my fault. I made a mistake and for this reason I am sorry."
He also spoke of his club's position in the Premier League, where only recently have the been knocked off the top spot by Manchester United, who now have a one-point lead in first place.
"I think it will be a good fight for the title right until the end of the season because we both have only the Premier League left", he said. "We can put all our strength on this, and I think it will be good. I am confident for the Premier League because we stayed top for four months, and we are now just a point behind."
City now face a tough challenge against Chelsea next Wednesday (March 21), who have just came off the back of a stunning 4-1 victory against Napoli to sail through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League (which you can read all about right here)