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United ousted

LONDON: The final 16 of the Champions League was completed on Wednesday when Villarreal, Benfica and Werder Bremen became the final three teams to advance in Europe's most prestigious club competition.

The draw for the knockout round is on December 16.

Villarreal defeated Lille 1-0 to win Group D, and Benfica upset two-time champion Manchester United 2-1 to take second place in the group.

In Group C, Werder Bremen defeated Panathinaikos 5-1 to finish second behind Barcelona, which had already advanced.

Thirteen teams had already qualified for the final 16 knockout stage:

AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven, Lyon, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Arsenal, Ajax, Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Rangers and Barcelona.

Manchester United was the shock of the night. United's loss at Benfica in Group D left the English power in last place in the group — and out of Europe.

United finished with six points, the same as Lille. Lille claimed third place — and a place in the UEFA Cup — ahead of Man United because the French team beat United in one group game and drew the other.

United's defeat was humiliating, costly and puts manager Alex Ferguson's job under pressure.

"When you are chasing a game like that, there is a certain desperation that comes in and there's anxiety," Ferguson acknowledged.

"And we needed a bit of composure. We overdid it a bit and became a bit desperate."

Trying to sound upbeat, Ferguson blamed part of the loss on a young squad that he hopes will improve with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool having replaced United as England's dominant teams.

"It's a blow and what you have to do is regroup," Ferguson said.

"This club in history has always risen from difficult situations, and we'll do so again."

The last time Manchester United was ousted from the Champions League group stage was 1994-95. In '95-96, United failed to qualify for the competition. Since then, the club has reached the knockout stage nine straight times, and won the title in 1999.

Other results: Group A: Brugge 1, Bayern Munich 1; Rapid Vienna 1, Juventus 3.

Group B: Arsenal 0, Ajax 0; Sparta Prague 0, Thun 0.

Group C: Udinese 0, Barcelona 2. — AP

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