Football

How Did Man United Fare After Their Three Previous Champions League Group Stage Exits?

How Did Man United Fare After Their Three Previous Champions League Group Stage Exits?

Last night was just fourth time Manchester United have been knocked out of the group stage of the Champions League since the competition was rebranded and expanded back in 1992. Here are the other three occasions that rank alongside Louis Van Gaal's failure:

1994/95

What Happened:

United were the only English representation in a newly-expanded 16 team tournament, and ultimately finished third in a group with Barcelona, Galatasaray and IFK Gothenburg. United came into the competition as English champions, and began with a routine 4-2 home win against Gothenburg.

A return descent to hell followed for United, with a trip to Galatasary. The Turkish side had knocked United out of the competiton the previous year in a fiercely intimidating atmosphere, best remembered for the unfurling of the "Welcome To Hell" banner. In his earliest autobiography, Ferguson declared he and United were exposed to "as much hostility and harassment as I have ever known on a football expedition". United drew 0-0, and followed it up with a 2-2 draw at home to Barcelona.

If the Turkish trip was challenging, United's next foray was chastening: a 4-0 demolition at the hands of Barcelona. A United side missing Cantona and Schmeichel were ripped asunder by a rampant Barca inspired by the vim and vigour of Romario and Hristo Stoichkov. Even more damaging was the next game: a shock 3-1 defeat away to IFK Gothenburg.

United fell behind after just six minutes to a Jesper Blomqvist goal. This meant Blomqvist scored as many goals against United as he did for them: he scored just once for United - in 1998 against Everton - thus continuing his remarkable tradition of scoring as often against future clubs as he did for them.

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Mark Hughes equalised after 64 minutes, but similar to Van Gaal's side against Wolfsburg, United conceded another just a minute later to Magnus Erlingmark.United would concede another and see Paul Ince sent off to wrap up a miserable campaign, meaning a 4-0 victory at home to Galatasary in the final game was futile as Gothenburg failed to beat Barcelona on the same night.

This was the still the era of two points for a win, so United finshed third on six points, level with Barcelona but with an inferior goal record, while Gothenburg remarkably topped the group on nine points. They would lose to Bayern Munich in the next round.

What Happened Next:

United did not qualify for the UEFA Cup, and ultimately ended a season without a major trophy for the first time in six seasons. The following January was marked by Eric Cantona's kicking of a Crystal Palace fan and the far more anodyne footballing story of the signing of Andy Cole from Newcastle.

United narrowly missed out on the Premier League to Blackburn, lost in the FA Cup Final to Everton and were knocked out of the League Cup by Newcastle United in the third round.

 

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2005/06

What Happened:

United finished bottom of a Champions League group for the first time with a series of turgid performances against Benfica, Lille and Villareal. The group began with a 0-0 draw away at eventual semi-finalists Villareal, a game most notable for Wayne Rooney sarcastically applauding himself into a red card and a two game ban.

In Rooney's absence, United beat Benfica 2-1 at Old Trafford with goals Ryan Giggs and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Simao made United sweat with a goal a minute from time. Incredibly, United scored just once more in the entirety of the campaign. They drew a blank in a 0-0 draw at home to Lille, and went one worse by losing 1-0 away to Lille in the following game.

United were then held 0-0 by Villareal for a second time. Despite the lack of goals, Ferguson's side had the chance to qualify in their final game. Victory away to Benfica would guarantee qualification, whilst a draw would be enough should Villareal beat Lille.

The Spaniards held up their part, but United's euphoria at this and at a sixth minute Paul Scholes goal would prove epehmeral: Benfica equalised through future Hull and Manchester City midfielder Geovanni, and a Beto strike before half-time built a lead which United found insurmountable.

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If Van Gaal's United now suffer the ignominy of the Europa League, Ferguson's 2005 vintage suffered the ignominy of not suffering the ignominy of the UEFA Cup, finishing bottom of the group on six points. This included finishing behind Lille on goal difference, despite the fact Lille scored just once in the entire competition. How a United squad featuring Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored just three goals in six games is astounding, and a problem Van Gaal experiences today, albeit with either inferior personnel.

What Happened Next: 

It was another tumultuous domestic season for United, similar to that of 1994/95. Another talismanic player was suspened: for Cantona's suspension see Roy Keane's internal discplining for a MUTV interview criticising teammates. Once again United finished a respectable second in the Premier League: on 83 points, eight behind Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. Once again they were knocked out of the FA cup early: in the fifth round by Liverpool. United did break the pattern and lift a trophy, however: they beat Wigan 4-0 in the League Cup final at Cardiff.

 

2011/12

What Happened: 

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Manchester United came into the 2011/12 season as champions, and were drawn against Basel, Turkish side Otelul Galati and old enemies Benfica. United began by doing what they failed to do in 2005: drawing 1-1 away to Benfica. A topsy-turvy 3-3 draw at home to Basel followed. The game began with two Danny Welbeck goals before the Swiss plundered three goals  in just 16 minutes. In trademark Ferguson fashion, however, United resuced a late equaliser through Ashley Young. It was the first time since 1999 that United had failed to win either of their opening two group games.

Standard 2-0 wins home and away to whipping boys Otelul Galati left United with a solid eight points from four games, before a 2-2 home draw to Benfica left them on the verge of qualification. United needed a draw away to Basel to qualify on the final night, but it was to go horribly awry for a squad that had contested three of the previous four finals. Goals in either half from Marcos Streller and Alexander Frei eliminated United, despite a late consolation from Phil Jones.

This time United did enter the Europa League, a competition they have never won. United beat Ajax in the round of 32 but came unstuck in the round of 16 against Marcelo Bielsa's exuberant Athletic Bilbao, losing both home and away to the eventual finalists.

What Happened Next: 

United rallied domestically,but the resulting season resembled 1994/95  in the sense that they ended the season without a major trophy having come agonisingly close to winning the league. Whereas a draw against West Ham denied them on the final day in 1995, Sergio Aguero denied them in the final minute with that extraordinary goal against QPR. Liverpool knocked them out of the FA Cup fourth round, and they were humbled by Crystal Palace in the League Cup fifth round.

See Also: Man United Fans Pulling Their Hair Out After Louis Van Gaal's Comments On CL Exit

See Also: Video: Ferdinand, Owen And Scholes Rip In To Louis Van Gaal After Man Utd Champions League Exit

 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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