Athletic, you are great! That is the cry that all of us, each in your language, screamed at some point last night. A week ago the Athletic Club was a little distinguished the now legendary Old Trafford, not just the result (2-3), or deployed for the big game, but especially the landmark displacement of the 8000 unconditional began a dream in the best possible scenario. But last night was even bigger, a show with all you need to be inscribed in golden letters in the history of football.
A spectacular team with an average age around 23-24 years, with players who mix strength and touch, passion and control, tradition and future. A coach who in just half a year has managed to convince everyone that yes, there may be born in Chile, but the football frenzy ancestry is Bilbao. A packaging rival, Manchester United, Premier leader, twice Champions League finalist in the last three years, with so much history that the stadium and fans have nicknames noble and frightening. All this in San Mamés, in the Cathedral, before an audience unmatched: 40,000 lions roaring together, eager for glory.
Marcelo Bielsa's a smart guy. At Old Trafford he asked his team pause, control and horizontal play. But last night I knew where I was. He knew what people expected of his team, what they needed. No point in spending the tie. The Cathedral was not dressed in their finery, favorite shirt, scarf from Grandma, and wineskins txapelas everywhere-to simply pass the tie. They wanted a big night, a legendary party. And Bielsa cages opened wide.
Athletic came to death. No death, no. A kill. No wait to see what the opponent, no temporizing, no speculation. With so much energy, passion and conviction, that Alex Ferguson did little to demonstrate that the end had indeed seen a game Athletic (at least a repeat of the first leg 2-3). Chicharito disregarded in favor of strengthening the midfield with a third man inside, gathering in the center with Cleverley Carrick and Park, plus support from Giggs from the right.
Bielsa repeated the same eleven that he enrolled in the Theatre of Dreams, with the exception of undisputed holder Amorebieta (absent in England). And it was precisely the international burgundy which put a ball to Fernando Llorente fifty yards from the Rioja impaled with a spectacular volley from De Gea off guard. A goal that, by their type (long diagonal ball), is doubly poignant for an English team. Llorente played diminished by some discomfort and had to retire even before finishing the first half. But he had a chance, just one, and put. A hero who, though wounded, left the battlefield to make a difference and railroaded the final victory.
United, leaving it to the talent of Rooney, managed to set the pace in the final quarter hour of the first part, but the Athletic, well planted and ordered, endured the tug English. After the break the Lions came back out like the first time, to take the ball, getting into opponent and attack, attack, attack. Level offensive team can be measured by analyzing how they behave the sides and the Athletic are cavalry: they keep raising the band again and again without rest, striking down the flanks, always ready to surprise the opponent. Iraola (you have to go to the Euro or yes) was just inches to initial with a goal a wonderful individual move his feet to half of Europe.
With Herrera Iturraspe and style checking, and Muniain Susaeta raising the rate, De Marcos honoring the number and position of playmaker and Toquero toquerando, the Red Devils went through a hell in the Cathedral. In one of many, De Marcos caught a rebound and scored the second goal of the night to confirm what everyone, including Ferguson, had already accepted one week after winning the top again. Ferguson soon drained the changes but if something fails in this United is the bench.
A little over ten minutes left, Wayne Rooney wanted to leave his mark on this great little chapter of European football with a goal. But not a goal either, but one at the height of the stage and the show, a wonderful shot from outside the area that entered the square. Audiences of San Mamés, superb in every way, applauded as the English goal, above , honored figure of Ryan Giggs dismissing the field with a standing ovation.
The epilogue was written by Alex Ferguson, who has not been heard complaining about the offside goal by De Marcos in the first leg. He made no excuses of any kind, but conceded defeat and just do, without bragging about it, those who really are great:
They have a very good opportunity to get very far. They deserve it and I wish all the best. It is a tribute to the effort impregnated by her coach and a wonder to see them play this way. They deserve to go all the way.