Manchester (England), Mar 9: Athletic Bilbao stunned Manchester United with a mesmerizing performance in the Europa League on Thursday, outclassing the English champions in a 3-2 away win in the first leg of the last 16.
Behind 1-0 to Wayne Rooney's 22nd-minute goal, Bilbao then ripped sloppy United apart with an attacking master class at Old Trafford. Fernando Llorente equalized just before halftime before Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain scored in the final 18 minutes.
Rooney grabbed his second from the penalty spot in stoppage time, but Bilbao should have been well clear by then after spurning a series of great chances against the competition favorites in a dominant performance.
"We were well beaten," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "They were the better team. The defending wasn't very good tonight and that kept us on the back foot."
The second leg will be played at Bilbao's San Mames stadium next Thursday, and Ferguson said he may recall Rio Ferdinand to the team after resting the injury-prone England center back for the first leg.
United needed him on Thursday.
The rangy Llorente, who helped Spain win the World Cup in 2010, tormented the home defense and could easily have scored a hat trick had it not been for a combination of poor finishing and some inspired goalkeeping by David De Gea.
The striker had to settle for one goal, a header in the 44th minute that buoyed Bilbao before the break and was the catalyst for a one-sided second half.
Rooney, England's leading striker, was forced to operate in left midfield at times in the second half in a bid to stem the tide. But Bilbao's intricate passing under veteran Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa paved the way for two late goals.
After a flowing move, Ander Herrera's lofted pass over a flat-footed defense was met with an angled volley by De Marcos, who appeared to be in an offside position.
Muniain, who was too hot to handle all evening, made it 3-1 when he slammed home a finish from close range after De Gea blocked a shot from De Marcos. United right back Rafael was to blame, however, for switching off instead of clearing the ball with Muniain behind him.
Rooney's late penalty gave what could prove to be an important second goal for United, which is attempting to win Europe's second-tier competition and become only the fourth side — after Juventus, Ajax and Bayern Munich — to win the continent's three club trophies.
"We can win the game over there," Ferguson said. "We've shown we can create chances, but we will need to defend better."