Jonny Evans was left to reflect on what might have been for Erik ten Hag’s stumbling Manchester United at the end of a miserable European campaign, with a “massive day” against rivals Liverpool now looming large.
Boos echoed around Old Trafford for a second straight match as Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League humbling at the hands of Bournemouth was followed by a meek 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich.
Tuesday’s lifeless defeat confirmed United’s place at the bottom of a Champions League group many expected them to progress from, meaning they also missed out on a Europa League spot.
The manner of the Red Devils’ European exit increases the spotlight on underfire boss Ten Hag and leaves the side kicking themselves over the mistakes that cost them dearly in Group A.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 12, 2023
“You expect to get out of every group being Man United,” deflated defender Evans said after the match.
“I think we made it difficult for ourselves and to go into the last game needing to win and a result to go your way in the other side, the probability of that’s very small.
“Obviously tonight playing against a good Bayern side and once they got the goal it was it was difficult then.”
A paltry four points from five Group A games meant United needed to beat Bayern and hope there was a draw between Copenhagen and Galatasaray to progress in the Champions League.
Asked if it was any consolation that the Danes’ 1-0 victory meant United would only have been able to reach the Europa League had they won anyway, Evans told beIN SPORTS: “I suppose because, I mean, if the result had gone the other way you can kick yourself.
“But, you know, on the flip side of that, I felt like we give absolutely everything tonight. It wasn’t a case of, you know, we could look back…
“Not many chances for either side. They got their one chance and took it.
“It was a very even game but probably whoever got the first goal (was key) and they got it and that’s the way it went.”
United managed the game well in the early stages, restricting Bayern to half-chances in an opening period that ended with Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw picking up injuries.
Evans came on as part of the enforced defensive reshuffle and did a solid enough job, but there was barely anything in terms of threat at the other end.
United managed just one shot on target in what was a must-win match, having blown leads in the 4-3 defeat at Copenhagen and 3-3 draw away to Galatasaray.
Asked if United could have done more in the previous games to avoid facing such a predicament in the group finale, Evans said: “Of course.
“There’s six games. To be able to get down to the last game, we’re sitting bottom of the group going into the match.
“The two away games, especially Copenhagen and Galatasaray, were big moments in the group where we felt like we probably slipped up a little bit and made it more difficult for ourselves tonight.”
United players looked drained as they left Old Trafford, where no players stopped to speak to non-rights holders in the mixed zone and face questions about their 12th loss in all competitions of the campaign.
Some took a shortcut to avoid walking through the interview area. Even in-house broadcaster MUTV did not get to speak to a player.
United fans will be hoping their players instead do their talking on the pitch against bitter foes Liverpool this Sunday as they return to Anfield for the first time since March’s 7-0 annihilation.
Skipper Bruno Fernandes is suspended for a match that Ten Hag’s side head into without a string of injured players, increasing the incline on what already looked to be an uphill battle.
“Massive day for the club, you know, away at Anfield,” homegrown defender Evans said.
“We’ve got a couple of days now between the game and you’ve got to dust ourselves down. We’ve got a big match, a huge match.
“I’m sure in the next day or two once the feeling of this match sort of passes by, we’ll only be excited leading up to that game.”