Sir Alex: The best team won
The La Liga outfit beat United 5-3 on aggregate – 3-2 at Old Trafford, 2-1 at San Mames – to progress to the quarter-finals and knock the Reds out of European competition for a second time this season.
“There are always lessons to learn from every football match, whether you win or lose,” Sir Alex told Channel 5. “It’s disappointing more than anything. We haven’t progressed in the Champions League and now we’re out of the Europa League. I think the best team went through. I don’t think we can complain.”
The Reds travelled to Bilbao targetting a 2-0 victory but those plans were shattered when Fernando Llorente volleyed home on 23 minutes. The goal, albeit brilliantly executed, came via a long ball from the Athletic left back. In many ways it was typical English route one football, and it left Sir Alex bitterly disappointed.
Tthey got a really soft goal to put them ahead and that’s the last thing we wanted. I can’t believe we lost a goal like that. It was a really poor one.
“Otherwise, I thought it was quite even in the first half. I thought we did quite well. But at the start of the second half Bilbao did very well. They could have scored two or three goals.
“Towards the end we had a bit of impetus – we scored a goal but we didn’t get anywhere near to winning it.”
Mancini: Blame it on me
“I am proud of the performance but disappointed for the two games. In the first game we didn’t play well, today in the first half we didn’t play.
We probably didn’t prepare well for the game. When I lose a game I think why? I think because I made a mistake. The manager is the person who prepares for the game and I must have made mistakes.”
City had toppled Porto 6-1 in the previous round, and Mancini admitted: “I probably made mistakes in the first game. Probably we thought that after Porto, Sporting was maybe easier.
“But in football it’s never easy. Today we left them a lot of space in the first half but in the second half we did a fantastic 45 minutes.
“I’m sorry for the supporters and I’m disappointed with myself, not the players, that in the end we lost.”
But the Blues boss promises a battle royal for the Premier League title with Champions League quarter-finalists Chelsea next up at the Etihad next Wednesday.
He said: “We have only one problem, four important players injured. That’s not good. But if we have the same spirit as in the second half we can win the next game against Chelsea.
“We are in second position one point behind, but I am very confident for the Premier League.
“Now it will be a good fight until the end of the season. We have only the Premier League and we can put all our strength into this. I think it will be good.”