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Five of the biggest European disappointments: Manchester United dumped out of Champions League

The 2023/24 Champions League campaign has been one of the worst in Manchester United's history, with Erik ten Hag's men finishing bottom of their group.

They are certainly not the only Premier League team to struggle in Europe, with some notable failures since the Champions League was established in 1992.

We take a look at the five biggest English disappointments on the continent over the last 31 years, with United's current crop included in the list.

Shaky United dumped out of Europe

Ten Hag's squad went into their final Group A game against Bayern Munich knowing that a only a win would be good enough to qualify for the knockout stages, and even then their fortunes would also depend on the other result in the group.

As it worked out, the German champions ended United's hopes with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford to put the seal on what has been a miserable European campaign for the Red Devils.

It started badly with a 4-3 defeat in Munich in the opening game, which could have been worse but for a couple of late consolation goals.

United then followed that up with a 3-2 home defeat to Galatasaray, having been in front on two occasions, before securing a narrow home win over Copenhagen on Matchday 3.

Having been two goals up in the Danish capital in Week 4, United had Marcus Rashford sent off before eventually losing 4-3.

Ten Hag's side then threw away another two-goal lead in Turkey, before having to settle for a 3-3 draw – a result that pretty much ended their chances of qualification.

The home loss to Harry Kane and his Bayern Munich side ensured United finished bottom of the section, denying them even the parachute into the Europa League after Christmas. 

Pain in the red half of Manchester won't be helped by the knowledge that rivals Man City are 2/1 favourites to retain the Champions League trophy this season. After helping dump United out, Bayern Munich are 4/1 second favourites to be crowned kings of Europe. 

Blackburn fall flat in Europe

After being crowned Premier League champions in 1995, Blackburn were expecting big things from their first ever season in Europe.

With the likes of Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, David Batty and Graeme Le Saux amongst their ranks, much was expected of Kenny Dalglish's squad in the Champions League.

Things couldn't have gone much worse though for Rovers, who finished bottom of a group after what looked like a favourable draw.

The English side were pitted against Spartak Moscow, Legia Warsaw and Rosenborg and the Lancastrians only managed to collect four points from six games.

Blackburn scored just five goals in the group and four of those came in the same game - their 4-1 success over Rosenborg at Ewood Park in the final group game.

Lacklustre United struggle for goals

Having seen their major rivals Liverpool lift the trophy the season before, Manchester United will have been desperate to prove themselves in the 2005-06 Champions League campaign.

Sir Alex Ferguson would have been confident when the group draw was made, as his squad were placed in Group D alongside Villarreal, Benfica and Lille.

But, having been expected to win the group, United finished bottom and claimed just one victory from six matches.

The standout stat from that campaign was that United scored just three goals in what was a low scoring group, which was eventually won by Villarreal – who went on to make the semi-finals.

In the 12 group games, the four teams found the net just 12 times between them, with five of the 12 matches finishing 0-0.

Wenger boys crash out

Having won the domestic double in 1997-98, Arsenal were being talked about as Champions League contenders as they looked forward to taking on the best teams in Europe in the 1998/99 season. 

The Gunners looked to have been handed a favourable draw when put into Group E alongside Greek side Panathinaikos, French outfit Lens and Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine.

Wenger's men - using Wembley as their temporary home stadium - collected four points from their first two matches to leave them in a decent position, but they followed that up by claiming just one point over their next three games.

Despite winning in Greece on Matchday Six, Arsenal eventually finished third and then watched on as rivals Manchester United went on to claim the Treble – with that unforgettable European final success over Bayern Munich in Barcelona. 

Reds failure leads to Benitez exit

Having led them to Champions League success in 2005 and then to the final again in 2007, Rafa Benitez saw his Liverpool team fail in Europe in the 2009/10 season.

After finishing second in the Premier League in the previous season, progression was expected at Anfield but a group-stage exit dented confidence in the manager.

Liverpool were the clear favourites to progress from Group E, where they were pitted against Fiorentina, Lyon and Debrecen.

After a 1-0 home win over the Hungarian champions in their opening game, everything seemed to be on track for the Reds.

Back-to-back defeats to Fiorentina and Lyon though put them on the back foot and just four more points from the final three games saw them finish third and drop into the Europa League.

That early exit, coupled with a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, saw Benitez lose his job in the summer of 2010.

Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.


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