This was supposed to be the year that Manchester United reasserted itself in Europe, but those hopes came to a crashing end Tuesday night.
United, back in the European Champions League after a one-year absence, lost 3-2 to Wolfsburg, while PSV Eindhoven beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 on the final day of Group B play. That left the German team on top of the group with 12 points from six games, with Eindhoven in second with 10. They will advance to the Round of 16, where knockout play begins, while United – finishing third with eight points – drops into the second-tier Europa League.
United could have clinched first place in the group with a win, and led after Anthony Martial’s 10th-minute goal, but Ronaldo Naldo tied it in the 14th minute and Adelino Vierinha made it 2-1 for Wolfsburg in the 29th.
Louis Van Gaal’s team got another chance when Joshua Guilavogui’s own goal tied the game in the 82nd minute, but Naldo got his second of the game just two minutes later. United could have still advanced if CSKA could have beaten PSV, but the Dutch team got two goals in the final 12 minutes to move onto the knockout round.
In Group A, Real Madrid had already qualified for the final 16, but ended the group stage in spectacular form, beating Malmo 8-0 behind four goals from Cristiano Ronaldo. Paris St. Germain finished second, beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.
Atletico Madrid and Benfica advanced from Group C, while Manchester City beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-2 to win Group D, despite two assists from U.S. national-team regular Fabian Johnson. Juventus finished second, and Mönchengladbach’s last-place finish means the end of Johnson’s European season.
The final four groups will be decided Wednesday, with English clubs Chelsea and Arsenal in danger of missing out on knockout play.