Manchester United’s dismal 2-1 defeat at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium to Turkish side Fenerbahce has left them third in Group A of this year’s Europa League competition. While a group also involving PSV Eindhoven was never expected to be easy, there is no good enough excuse for Jose Mourinho to hide behind, if United fail to reach the knockout phases of the tournament.
The heady days of the second half of the 2000s when English sides used to regularly make the Champions League semi finals have become a thing of the past – a billion dollar side boasting the most expensive player in the world falling at the first hurdle of Europe’s second tier competition would be a blow for the EPL as a whole.
Ever since the group stages were introduced at the Europa League/UEFA Cup in 2004, there have been multiple English casualties at that stage. This list takes a look at all the instances when an English side exited the competition at the group stages.
#1 Portsmouth 2008-09
Portsmouth qualified for the 2008-09 Europa League in style, winning the FA Cup final against Cardiff City. However, they were found wanting on the European stage, getting eliminated in the group stages.
The Europa League at the time was a mouse trap of a competition and the group stages weren’t even the first round of the tournament. 80 teams would compete in the opening round in a home & away knock out format and the 40 winners would reach the group stage consisting of 8 groups with 5 teams each. Three teams from each group would go on to the next round – the Round of 32 and the tournament would be a knockout from then on.
Portsmouth would get past round one, eliminating Vitoria Guimaraes – but were placed in a group stage comprising of Milan and Wolfsburg. Third place seemed to be their best option, with Braga and Heerenveen not the most formidable of challengers. Each team played the other only once and got to play two matches at home.
Pompey did play their hearts out in the first home match and led the mighty Milan 2-0 with just five minutes remaining. However, the Italians proved their European pedigree and the side comprising Ronaldinho and Inzaghi scored twice – the equaliser coming in the second minute of added time – to level proceedings. This match was sandwiched between two disappointing away matches – a 0-3 reverse at the hands of Braga and a 2-3 defeat at the Volkswagen Arena against Wolfsburg.
By the time the last match against Heerenveen came about, Porstmouth had already been eliminated. The English side did go out with a bang though, trouncing the Dutch side 3-0 at Fratton Park.