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16/03/2012 10:11

Papers: Rivals humbled

Tim Rich writes in The Independent

No picking and choosing now
The question before kick-off was whether the two Manchester clubs could pick and choose trophies; whether attempting to win the Europa League would distract from their assault on the title.  After a night that saw both clubs eliminated by clubs who have no chance of winning the Portuguese or Spanish leagues, it is the championship or nothing. United were as outplayed by Athletic Bilbao as they were by Barcelona in two European Cup finals. City's stunning second-half recovery against Sporting Lisbon, orchestrated by Sergio Aguero, at least carried the flavour of Arsenal against Milan or Chelsea's return from the dead against Napoli. Whether either club will benefit from elimination is debatable. You think of Leeds in 1973, losing the title to Liverpool and the FA Cup final by Sunderland and hauling themselves to Thessaloniki to lose the Cup-Winners' Cup to Milan. And yet when Sir Alex Ferguson talks of the boys who won the Treble in 1999, he often remarks that the games came so quickly at the end that his team had not time to think of what they were about to achieve. There was no time for nerves. Now, for United and especially for City, there will be perhaps too much time to think and wonder.

There’s widespread coverage of the Reds’ European exit, with many papers leading on Sir Alex’s frank assessment that it’s been a "disappointing year" for United. The Guardian quotes the Reds boss saying he hopes Athletic go on to win the Europa League.

"Apart from the fantastic work rate, they have some good qualities also," he said. "It's not just their work rate getting them where they are at the moment – they're showing some very good combination football and I think they can go the whole way. I want to wish them well and I hope they do win it because it's testimony to the hard work they all put in. It's a wonderful thing to see such incredible energy and determination to win football matches, so I think they deserve to win it."

More: Sir Alex: Best team won | Evra: Title would save season | Crerand applauds Athletic

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