MANCHESTER, England, April 8, 2010 (AFP) - Darron Gibson has challenged Manchester United to bounce back from their shattering Champions League exit by retaining the Premier League title.
United's season suffered a devastating blow on Wednesday when Sir Alex Ferguson's side were knocked out in the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition by Bayern Munich on away goals.
Ferguson had gambled with the fitness with Wayne Rooney and it appeared to pay off as last season's beaten finalists quickly overturned a 2-1 first leg deficit by storming into a 3-0 lead in the opening 41 minutes at Old Trafford.
|Manchester United's English forward Wayne Rooney is substituted during the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match Manchester United vs FC Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in Manchester on April 7, 2010. AFP PHOTO|
But Rafael da Silva's 50th minute red card, after Ivica Olic had reduced the deficit, forced United onto the back foot and Bayern eventually went through after Arjen Robben's wonder strike sealed a 4-4 aggregate draw.
Having been replaced by Chelsea at the top of the Premier League following a 2-1 home defeat by the London club last Saturday, United's season is in danger of collapsing.
But Republic of Ireland midfielder Gibson, who scored United's first goal after being handed a surprise start, believes there is enough character and experience in the home dressing room to salvage the season.
United, two points behind Chelsea with five games remaining, travel to Blackburn on Sunday for what is now a must-win match.
"Everyone is devastated," Gibson said. "But we've got to pick ourselves up for the weekend because we're still in the race for the title.
"Do we lie down and let the whole season go or do we stand up, fight and go for the title?
"We have got the experience in the dressing room to stand up. We've been in this situation before.
"We have got the characters in the dressing room and the experience. They have done it before. I think we'll be alright."
Gibson, whose goal was his first in the Champions League, struggled to hide his disappointment as United failed to go through despite building a 4-2 aggregate lead.
In a match of high drama, Gibson admitted Rafael's dismissal for two bookable offences was the turning point, but he conceded the English champions had only themselves to blame.
"With Rafa being sent off in the second half, it killed us a bit," added Gibson.
"It was a massive turning point. They had the extra man and we had to sit back and defend for most of the second half.
"We got put under a lot of pressure and obviously we got tired. The whole world probably thought we were going to go through at 3-0. But because of silly mistakes we're out. I would rather have not scored and gone through."
Meanwhile, United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar insisted that his team deserved to go through over the two legs.
But van der Sar admitted Bayern's last minute winner in the first leg was a crucial moment in the tie.
"It wasn't too much to ask to reach a third final. I think we deserved to go through," Van der Sar said.
"They got a lucky goal in injury time last week and we had 10 men here. Even then they didn't create that many chances. It took a wonder goal to kick us out.
"The game plan was perfect. But we conceded before half time and it's a different ball game.
"The sending off was obviously the turning point. I think everybody knows who has a card and they're very good at it.
"I thought initially the referee wasn't going to do it but they put some pressure on him and he got the card out.
"If you've got 11 against 11, they have to come and score a second goal. The way we pressed we would have got more chances probably."