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Rooney double can't save United

Manchester United face a tough task maintaining their presence in the Europa League. They lost 3-2 at home to Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the knockout tie. In fact Wayne Rooney’s 2 goals gave the scoreline a flattering aspect given the Basque team’s dominance.

Athletic Bilbao gave one of the best performances ever seen by a visiting team at Old Trafford, thoroughly outplaying United with their high-tempo passing, precision finishing and spirited tackling. Only the brilliance of the United goalkeeper David De Gea prevented humiliation.

Fernando Llorente showed why he is one of the most coveted centre-forwards in Europe, but Bilbao’s all-Basque 11 were so impressive that even Sir Alex Ferguson had to acknowledge their superiority, after delivering his customary moan about refereeing decisions.

"There's no doubt Bilbao were the better side," Ferguson admitted. "They were very aggressive in their attacking and pressing, which is something we expected. Our keeper has made 4 or 5 terrific saves in the game, so it is really not the worst result for us."

The visiting supporters made such a noise at Old Trafford that it is difficult to imagine the clamour that will greet United in the return match in Bilbao. "It's an uphill fight for us," Ferguson said, "and the question is can we win the match next week? I think we can. I think we can win the game OK. We can win over there and we showed we can create chances, but we are going to have to defend better."

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