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Manchester United are facing Europa League elimination after a shock defeat by Athletic Bilbao that ended in bitter controversy at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson struck a defiant note about United’s prospects of overturning a 3-2 scoreline in the last-16 tie, but they are up against it after an 89th-minute incident that left them seething.

German referee Florian Meyer penalised Patrice Evra for kicking the ball after one of his boots had come off and from the resulting free-kick Iker Muniain forced home Bilbao’s third goal.

United striker Javier Hernandez complained to Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa that his side should have returned the ball to United, but FIFA laws state an indirect free-kick should be awarded against any player who touches the ball while not wearing both boots.

Ferguson said: ‘The third goal, I don’t know how you describe it. The referee’s stopped play … the issue that Patrice didn’t have a boot on, they say you’re not allowed to do that.’

However, Ferguson was unable to continue his assessment on Channel 5, because, incredibly, he was stopped by the interviewer, who apologised and explained the programme had run out of time and had to go off air.

Before he was interrupted, the United manager berated his side’s defensive shortcomings but insisted they could still rescue the tie in the return leg.

He said: ‘Our defending really wasn’t very good at all, and that kept us on the back foot. But it was a really open, entertaining game, and our attacking play was good at times.

‘They were the better team on the night, but we can win the game over there, no question about it. We showed we can create chances against them, but we are going to have to defend a lot better. That goes without saying.

‘I am going to have to look at ways of possibly bringing Rio Ferdinand back in. He is so important to us, in terms of experience at the back, so I will have to see if that can be done, without disrupting things in the Premier League.’

Source: DailyMail

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