A defiant David Moyes insisted Manchester United will bounce back to qualify for the Champions League at the first opportunity after Bayern Munich knocked them out at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern's 3-1 victory in the quarter-final second leg gave them a 4-2 aggregate win to leave United facing the prospect of not being in the Champions League next season for the first time since 1995-6. United are seven points from fourth position with only five games remaining, so the chances of Moyes leading the club into next season's Champions League are remote.
After Patrice Evra's 57th-minute strike had taken United 2-1 ahead in the tie, Mario Mandzukic's equaliser less than two minutes later, plus further goals from Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben, consigned United to elimination.
Yet Moyes was bullish about hopes of qualifying for the competition soon. "We won't have Champions League football [next season] but I don't think it is far away," he said. "We need to rebuild, and our focus now is to get a team that can get back in this competition. My job is just to get on with it. [This] is disappointing but the focus now is that we get a team ready to get back in there. It's a great competition, we've really enjoyed it and we need to get back in it."
Michael Carrick insisted that next year United can mount a Premier League challenge despite a defence that has them 17 points behind the leaders, Liverpool. "It was always going to be tough tonight and we're not in the Champions League next season, not necessarily because of tonight but because we have been weak and haven't been good enough over the season," he said. "We need to finish the season as best we can and come back believing we can win the title and qualify for the Champions League."
Moyes has previously talked of the major rebuilding job he has to do. But having seen United go toe-to-toe with Pep Guardiola's side for the majority of the tie, he may have revised his opinion. "Our team has improved," he said. "There have been games when you might say it has not, but there have been signs of improvement. I thought the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were outstanding. They were terrific. Shinji Kagawa played very well. There were a lot of positives."
Nemanja Vidic will leave the club in the summer, while Patrice Evra may also disappear. But Moyes would not be drawn on the chances of this being their European farewell. "The players you are talking about are great players and they showed it," he said. "Vida and Pat showed that tonight."
Moyes criticised the defending that allowed Mandzukic to score less than two minutes after Evra's strike. "If you are a schoolboy you get told that if you score, make sure you don't concede right away," he said. "We didn't do an awful lot wrong tonight but it was just a couple of sloppy errors. The only crime was conceding a goal [so soon] after we had scored. That was the biggest crime."
Moyes admitted that his team might have been caught up in the euphoria of Evra's goal. "Possibly, but I do also think that I have a team full of experienced players and it is the sort of the thing you learn as a schoolboy that once you score a goal make sure you don't concede and be in your position and do your job."
Wayne Rooney had two clear chances to score during each half of the match, but the striker spurned both. The 28-year-old was only able to play on the night due to an injection to kill the pain of a chipped bone in his left foot.
Moyes believes this affected his performance. "I was concerned that Wayne had not trained all week and he had taken an injection," he said. "At times it looked like it was a struggle striking the ball. But he is such a vital player to us. He is so important, especially with Robin van Persie out just now. He had a couple of opportunities but couldn't quite take them."