Man United suffer worst ever Champions League group stage: Ten Hag’s Red Devils out of Europe in 18-year low

With a 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on December 12, Manchester United were officially eliminated from European competition as they finished bottom of their 2023/24 Champions League group.

The Red Devils came into the final matchday of the group stage sitting last in Group A, a point behind both FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray. With the daunting task of playing runaway leaders Bayern Munich, United needed a miracle to stay afloat.

It wasn’t to be as Kingsley Coman scored in the 70th minute to give Bayern the victory, which confirmed United’s exit from European competition. With FC Copenhagen beating Galatasaray by the same score, the Danish side secured the second knockout-stage qualification spot while their Turkish opponents were forced to settle for a place in the Europa League playoffs.

Their return over six games represents a new low for Manchester United in the modern UEFA Champions League. It has been nearly two decades since they last suffered such a humbling finish in group-stage play in this competition, and even that wasn’t quite as bad as this.

MORE: Recap the 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich as Man United dumped from Champions League

Man United suffer worst ever Champions League group stage

In the 2023/24 Champions League, Manchester United were dumped from European competition by finishing last in their group behind Bayern Munich, FC Copenhagen, and Galatasaray. While the third-place finishers Galatasaray were afforded a spot in the Europa League playoff round, United were eliminated from Europe altogether thanks to their fourth-place finish.

The last time United were eliminated entirely from European competition after starting the season in the Champions League was in 2005/06, when they finished last behind Villarreal, Benfica, and Lille.

That season, they managed six points from six games, winning once, drawing three times, and losing twice. In 2023/24, United lost four of their six group games for the first time in this competition, conceding 15 goals — a record for an English side. That makes this their worst seasonal performance in the modern Champions League.

They were dropped from the Champions League group stage in 2011/12 and 2021/22, but both of those times the Red Devils finished third in their group, meaning they were lowered to the Europa League knockout stage, not eliminated from European competition entirely.

Group A table

1. Bayern Munich-Q 16 6 5 0 1 12 6 +6
2. Copenhagen-Q 8 6 2 2 2 8 8 0
3. Galatasaray-E 5 6 1 3 2 10 13 -3
4. Man United-X 4 6 1 4 1 12 15 -3

Q = Qualified for Champions League knockout stage
E = Dropped to Europa League knockout stage
X = Eliminated from European competition entirely

Will Man United play in Europa League?

Manchester United will not earn a spot in the Europa League in 2023/24. Only third-place finishers in each Champions League group drop into Europe’s secondary competition.

In Group A, Galatasaray finished third to secure the Europa League spot, while Bayern Munich and FC Copenhagen went through to the Champions League Round of 16 by finishing top two in the standings.

Man United set goals against record in Champions League group

In the process of their humbling result finishing bottom of their Champions League group, Man United also set an unwanted English record.

The Red Devils conceded 15 goals in their six Champions League group-stage matches, the most of any Premier League club in the group stage across the history of this European competition.

The most goals ever conceded in a single Champions League group stage by any club is 24, done by BATE Borisov in 2014/15, Legia Warsaw in 2016/17, and Viktoria Plzen in 2022/23. Yet the most any English club had conceded prior to United’s new record was the 14 Tottenham Hotspur let in through the 2020/21 group stage — and that club still managed to advance with a second-place finish.

It isn’t just the Champions League where United are leaking goals. The Red Devils conceded 33 goals through their opening 20 matches of the season across all competitions, their worst mark since 1960/61. Twelve of their first 24 games in 2023/24 have ended in defeat, which is as many as they lost in 63 matches in the whole of 2022/23.

When did Man United last win the Champions League?

Manchester United have not won the Champions League since their last title in 2008 when they topped Chelsea via a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in Moscow.

The Red Devils have lost two Champions League finals since then, falling to Barcelona in both 2009 and 2011, and have failed to make it back to the final since.

In fact, Man United haven’t even made it past the quarterfinal since that 2011 defeat to Barcelona, where they were eliminated by Bayern Munich in 2014 and again by Barcelona in 2019.

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