David Moyes and his Manchester United squad flew home from Germany to uncertain futures as the Barclays Premier League champions faced up to a season that is effectively over with one month left.
The United manager ducked out through a side door to avoid camera crews at Manchester airport as the official charter plane arrived home from Champions League disappointment in Munich.
Moyes knows he must somehow end the domestic season in positive fashion but faces a potentially embarrassing return to his old club Everton in United’s next league fixture on Easter Sunday.
As for United’s players, there are as many as 10 with genuine question marks over their future and midfielder Darren Fletcher warned last night that it is up to them to prove that they are worthy of being retained beyond this summer.
Fletcher, whose own future is far from secure, said: ‘We now have five league games left with nothing really to play for. That is a unique experience for us and we are disappointed and hurting, but we have to go into these games and we have to win them.
‘He (Moyes) will definitely look back on this season and realise it was a disappointment, but I fully expect there to be some signings. It is time to show the manager that you deserve to be at this club.’
United’s 3-1 defeat in Bavaria came with honour attached but nevertheless Moyes’s team are now facing up to no Champions League place next season and must finish at least one place higher than their current seventh to be sure of Europa League football. Some Reds fans are wondering why the board seem to be tolerating a season of such disappointment. However, there was no word from United on their current malaise as chief executive Ed Woodward stayed in Germany to talk to Bayern Munich officials about a possible summer deal for midfielder Toni Kroos.
Moyes believes United’s reduced status will not deter summer targets from joining United but he must decide which of the current crop to retain.
It now seems certain that left back Patrice Evra will join Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Anderson on the way out, while question marks remain over the likes of Alex Buttner, Nani, Ashley Young, Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley.
United gave Bayern a scare, taking the lead through Evra. But the Germans seemed to possess a killer instinct United don’t have.
‘We need to rise to that standard, said Fletcher. ‘I don’t think we are as far behind as some people think. Whoever the manager signs, they will hopefully help us bridge that gap. If we end up in the Europa League, we can try and win it.’– Daily Mail