Manchester United were eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday, losing 3-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw on the night. They failed to build on Anthony Martial's opening goal, with Philippe Coutinho delivering the knockout blow on the stroke of halftime.
Despite the final score, United made a fine start under the Old Trafford floodlights. The atmosphere peculiarly resembled glorious European nights of old, and it was clear that both players and fans were up for the fight.
It took a few minutes for the chances to come, but come they did, and at both ends. Jesse Lingard drew a fine save from Simon Mignolet on a looping Marcos Rojo cross, seconds before Juan Mata prodded the subsequent corner wide of the far post. At the other end, a brilliant David de Gea dive stopped a low Coutinho drive from hitting the back of the net.
United remained in the ascendancy, and just short of the half hour, they had the breakthrough. Nathaniel Clyne tripped Anthony Martial in the penalty area, allowing the Frenchman to step up and score from the spot. Old Trafford was rocking.
However, United's joy was short lived - though not quite as short-lived as it may have been. Daniel Sturridge cracked a free-kick against the crossbar, a few minutes before Jordan Henderson fluffed his lines in a one-on-one. The hosts' control over the game inexplicably slipped as halftime approached, and with just seconds left before the break, Liverpool delivered a knockout blow. Philippe Coutinho burned Guillermo Varela down the left before squeezing inside de Gea's near post. It didn't exactly cover either defender or goalkeeper in glory.
The upshot was United needed to score three second half goals to stand any chance of progressing. To their credit, they gave it a good go after the interval, finding the intensity they'd lost late in the first period. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalise with a goal, and with every tick of the clock, a great comeback looked ever more unlikely.
Louis van Gaal hammered the nail into the coffin by making not one but two like-for-like substitutions at full-back: first Varela was withdrawn for Antonio Valencia, before Matteo Darmian was thrown on in place of the reasonably good Marcos Rojo. The final substitution was the introduction of Bastian Schweinsteiger for Michael Carrick, as the game petered out into an ultimately disappointing draw that had promised so much.