Bilbao stuns Man United 3-2 in Europa League

Athletic Bilbao stunned Manchester United with a mesmerizing

performance in the Europa League on Thursday, outclassing the

English champions in a 3-2 away win in the first leg of the last

16.

Behind 1-0 to Wayne Rooney’s 22nd-minute goal, Bilbao then

ripped sloppy United apart with an attacking master class at Old

Trafford. Fernando Llorente equalized just before halftime before

Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain scored in the final 18

minutes.

Rooney grabbed his second from the penalty spot in stoppage

time, but Bilbao should have been well clear by then after spurning

a series of great chances against the competition favorites in a

dominant performance.

”We were well beaten,” United manager Alex Ferguson said.

”They were the better team. The defending wasn’t very good tonight

and that kept us on the back foot.”

The second leg will be played at Bilbao’s San Mames stadium next

Thursday, and Ferguson said he may recall Rio Ferdinand to the team

after resting the injury-prone England center back for the first

leg.

United needed him on Thursday.

The rangy Llorente, who helped Spain win the World Cup in 2010,

tormented the home defense and could easily have scored a hat trick

had it not been for a combination of poor finishing and some

inspired goalkeeping by David De Gea.

The striker had to settle for one goal, a header in the 44th

minute that buoyed Bilbao before the break and was the catalyst for

a one-sided second half.

Rooney, England’s leading striker, was forced to operate in left

midfield at times in the second half in a bid to stem the tide. But

Bilbao’s intricate passing under veteran Argentine coach Marcelo

Bielsa paved the way for two late goals.

After a flowing move, Ander Herrera’s lofted pass over a

flat-footed defense was met with an angled volley by De Marcos, who

appeared to be in an offside position.

Muniain, who was too hot to handle all evening, made it 3-1 when

he slammed home a finish from close range after De Gea blocked a

shot from De Marcos. United right back Rafael was to blame,

however, for switching off instead of clearing the ball with

Muniain behind him.

Rooney’s late penalty gave what could prove to be an important

second goal for United, which is attempting to win Europe’s

second-tier competition and become only the fourth side – after

Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich – to win the continent’s three

club trophies.

”We can win the game over there,” Ferguson said. ”We’ve shown

we can create chances, but we will need to defend better.”