Manchester United knew their task: beat Bayern Munich at home. They also knew their limitations, with the other game in the group, requiring a draw between Danish champions FC Copenhagen and Turkish giants Galatasaray to progress.
As it happened, they got neither. United lost thanks to a Kingsley Coman goal midway through the second half. In truth, it could and probably should have been more, but that was never likely to be an issue.
United managed just a solitary shot on target – and that from long range – so 1-0 was always going to be enough. Bruno Fernandes had their only opportunity worth the name and fired well over.
In the other game, Lukas Lerager got the only goal for Copenhagen to send them through to an unlikely appearance in the last 16. He was later sent off, but Gala couldn’t capitalise.
The surprise in Denmark and the loss in Manchester consigned United to their lowest ever points tally in the Champions League group stage and ensured that they not only depart the competition, but European competition entirely, ending up bottom of the table with the Turkish side claiming the third place passage to the UEFA Europa League.
Their defensive record is the joint worst in the entire competition, alongside lowly Royal Antwerp, and is the worst ever recorded by a Premier League side in the group stage.
“Spent over £400 million ($750m) since Erik ten Hag has been in charge,” said Chris Sutton on the BBC. “What have Copenhagen spent in that period?”
The legends lined up to take a pop at the side, particularly after strong performances away from home were not capitalised upon, leading United to crash out.
“Very disappointing to say the least,” said Rio Ferdinand. “You would have expected United to go through when the group came out.
“To score three goals in each of their away games and not come away with much points it’s criminal. You get what you deserve if you’re not clinical or you can’t close matches out.”
Booes rang out around Old Trafford, again, for manager Erik ten Hag. Having been humbled 3-0 at home to Bournemouth on the weekend and now out of Europe, serious questions will be asked of his position.
Next weekend sees Liverpool visit, and a negative result there could well see the end of the Dutchman’s reign.
Elsewhere, Napoli defeated Braga 2-0 to secure their spot in the knockout stages, with Real Madrid cruelling newcomers Union Berlin with an 89th minute goal to win 3-2 after the Germans had led, then come from behind.
PSV Eindhoven were held 1-1 by Arsenal in the Netherlands and RC Lens defeated Sevilla 2-1 in Group B, though both qualification spots had already been decided.
The same was true in Group D, where Inter Milan and Real Sociedad played out a 0-0 draw – enough to see the Basques claim top spot – while Benfica nicked a Europa League place from RB Salzburg by turning over the Austrians 3-1.