Man Utd’s Most Embarrassing Champions League Defeats – Ranked

Man Utd’s Most Embarrassing Champions League Defeats - Ranked

Manchester United have suffered their fare share of Champions League defeats over the last 27 years of competing in the competition.

There is often no shame in losing against the best of the best, especially in close games that have seen heavyweights stand toe-to-toe, but that isn’t always the case when it comes to weaker sides.

Here’s a look back at 11 of the most embarrassing defeats Manchester United have endured in the Champions League…

Manchester United's English forward Dann
Alex Ferguson gambled on youth against Besiktas in 2009 

With qualification for the knockout stages already in the bag, Sir Alex Ferguson turned to youth for Besiktas’ visit to Old Trafford in November 2009, giving chances to Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda and Gabriel Obertan.

The 1-0 defeat, settled by a deflected first half goal, ended a 23-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford in the Champions League that had stretched back over four years to 2005.

Javier Hernandez, Ryan Giggs, Danny Welbeck
United were stunned by Cluj at Old Trafford in 2012 

Following four consecutive wins and early qualification for the knockout rounds, United’s 2012/13 Champions League group stage campaign ended with successive defeats, the last of which was against Romanian side Cluj at Old Trafford.

It was United’s first home defeat in Europe for three years and the first time they had failed to score at Old Trafford in a little over two. It was a weakened team, but United still dominated the contest and ought not to have been beaten.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (L
Cristiano Ronaldo came up short against Fenerbahce in 2004 

A rotated United side was easily dispatched by Fenerbahce in Istanbul on matchday six of the 2004/05 group stage, with future Middlesbrough and Stoke player Tuncay Sanli scoring a hat-trick.

A young Cristiano Ronaldo, still only 19 at the time, was very poor for United that night.

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Maccabi Haifa beat United 3-0 back in 2002 

Even though a handful of big names were rested for this dead rubber against Maccabi Haifa, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Mikael Silvestre, Paul Scholes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all started this one that saw United stunned in Israel.

Fortunately, passage to the second group stage was already secure ahead of kick-off, but a comprehensive defeat against group stage first-timers was not a good look.

Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney
United were left wanting by Olympiacos in 2014 

The Champions League was a respite for under fire United boss David Moyes in 2013/14 as his team navigated the group stage with relative comfort. But Olympiacos had other ideas in the last 16 and won 2-0 in Greece, while United managed only a paltry single shot on target…in the 89th minute.

The blushes were eventually spared in the second leg at Old Trafford when Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick to secure a 3-0 win and overturn the aggregate score-line.

Scott Chipperfield, Cabral, Ryan Giggs
United were squeezed out of the group stage by Basel in 2011

From reaching three finals in four years, United crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage in 2011/12. Damage was done by too many draws, but the team’s fate was sealed in a ‘win and you’re in’ scenario against Basel on matchday six.

United had already struggled against the Swiss side, drawing 3-3 at home with a late equaliser. They would have been confident of getting the necessary result, but Basel scored early and late to go 2-0 ahead, before Phil Jones grabbed a meaningless consolation.

Mason Greenwood, Boli Bolingoli
United couldn’t create enough chances against Istanbul Basaksehir 

United started the 2020/21 Champions League group stage in perfect fashion, beating both Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig to begin with. Istanbul Basaksehir, newbies at this stage of the competition, should have been the easiest opponent, but United were woeful in Turkey.

The first goal scored by Demba Ba was naïve to the point of comedy, with United allowing the 35-year-old an entire half of the pitch to run into after their own corner. Istanbul defended resolutely and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team lacked the imagination to break through.

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Ronaldo, Leo
Defeat to Benfica in 2005 saw United finish bottom of the group 

Ordinarily a defeat to Benfica might not be considered ‘embarrassing’, but in 2005 it was a result that ensured United would finish bottom of their Champions League group, failing to even earn the consolation of dropping into the UEFA Cup.

It was the first time in 11 years that United didn’t reach the Champions League knockout stages, yet they had been on course to do so when Paul Scholes scored early on. Then Benfica turned it around in the first half and United had no response.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer
Fenerbahce ended United’s 40-year unbeaten European home record 

By 1996, United had been competing in European competition for 40 years and had still never been beaten at Old Trafford. That record was not taken by a continental elite like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus or AC Milan, but by a Fenerbahce side they had comfortably beaten two weeks earlier.

Bosnian forward Elvir Bolic scored the only goal of the game with just over 10 minutes to play. This was far from a dead rubber and United, having been subsequently also beaten by Juventus at Old Trafford, had to win against Rapid Vienna on matchday six to be sure of their progress.

United were hammered 4-0 by a rampant Barcelona in 1994 

In 1994/95, United had only relatively recently returned to elite European competition after nearly 25 years away. The previous season they had failed to reach the group stage after being knocked out in an early round on away goals and were given a staunch reality check by Barcelona.

United were hamstrung by UEFA’s cap on three foreign players per team and Peter Schmeichel was left out as Sir Alex Ferguson prioritised Roy Keane, Denis Irwin and Andrei Kanchelskis. Eric Cantona was suspended, which would have otherwise added to the headache.

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Gary Walsh deputised in goal and conceded four, which remains the club’s heaviest defeat in a single Champions League game. Barcelona’s three foreign players – Hristo Stoichkov, Romario and Jordi Cruyff – all scored that night.

Paul Pogba, Gabriel Mercado, Pablo Sarabia
United had no response until it was too late against Sevilla in 2018 

Jose Mourinho’s United had successfully returned from Spain with a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the 2017/18 Champions League last 16 tie against Sevilla. But the onus was on them to attack in the return leg at Old Trafford because they were vulnerable to an away goal.

Instead, it was one of the most turgid United performances of recent times and the team only sparked into any kind of life after substitute Wissam Ben Yedder put Sevilla 2-0 up as the game neared the end. By then, United needed to score three and it was far too late.

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