Juan Mata revealed “the feeling in the end is very bitter” after Manchester United brought the curtain down on a disheartening season with a 2-0 defeat to relegated Cardiff.
United have tailed off alarmingly in recent weeks though, in truth, their Premier League campaign featured few high moments as they limped to a sixth-place finish.
Their hopes of Champions League qualification were dashed by a draw at rock-bottom Huddersfield last week, while Bluebirds winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s brace on Sunday stretched United’s winless run to six matches in all competitions.
Mata made no attempt to sugar the pill as he assessed the last nine months, during which time United faltered under both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, either side of a brief resurgence under the Norwegian.
“A defeat on the Premier League’s final weekend was the worst way to finish off what hasn’t been a good campaign for anyone who is part of the Manchester United family,” the Spaniard wrote in a weekly blog on his website.
“There have been some good moments and matches along the way, which have to be remembered, but the feeling in the end is very bitter.
“None of us are satisfied with the general performance levels that we have offered, for one reason or another. When we win, we do so together, and when we lose we also share the responsibility.
“Now is the moment to analyse, reflect and improve, because this club should be in a different situation to the one we find ourselves in, there can be no doubt about that.
“Although it isn’t healthy to just focus on the negatives, it also isn’t possible to deny the obvious, we have to be realistic and the season has been very disappointing.
“It’s very painful and that feeling will last through the whole summer.”
Addressing the club’s fans directly, Mata added: “You all deserve a lot more than what you’re getting. That is the reality.”
Mata’s contract expires in the summer and he has been linked with a move away from the club – with Barcelona and Juventus rumoured to be among those interested in signing the 31-year-old.
However, Mata, who only made 16 league starts this season, made no mention of his future, preferring instead to highlight the contributions of outgoing pair Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera.
Club captain Valencia made his 339th and final appearance for United on Sunday although Herrera was left out of the matchday squad after announcing on Saturday he intended to leave the club this summer.
Mata added: “(They are) two players and two friends who I have shared a lot of experiences with both on and off the pitch.
“Our fans gave them a heartfelt goodbye as was expected, because the two have given a lot to this club.
“Both of them have left their mark in the changing room and I am sure that they will have many more good moments ahead of them. I wish them the best.”
Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City are addicted to winning and will not settle for simply retaining their Premier League crown.
City secured a second successive title by just one point with Sunday’s 4-1 triumph at Brighton, pipping Liverpool who ended up second with a stunning 97 points.
Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan all hit the net as City stormed home at the Amex Stadium.
City rattled off 14 successive victories to seal the title, with Guardiola then admitting his players and coaches are nowhere near satisfied.
“Well I’m not going to deny it is exhausting, but winning is so addictive and now we have the chance to win the FA Cup and a treble,” said Guardiola.
“Then we have to make decisions for next season to come back strong. Liverpool will maintain and so we have to be better.
“Competitive people are never satisfied, it’s never enough. We want more and more.
“And that’s why the second one, to make it back to back shows me this kind of thing. It shows me it wasn’t enough (for the players), that one wasn’t enough.”
Glenn Murray headed Brighton into the lead to hand City a scare, but that fright lasted just 83 seconds.
Aguero buried the visitors’ first chance, and after Laporte headed in from a corner, Guardiola’s men never relented.
City have racked up 198 points across their back-to-back title victories, with Guardiola admitting Liverpool’s chase has driven his side to new levels this term.
City’s madcap celebrations included Oasis star Noel Gallagher belting out his classic hit Wonderwall with the squad in the dressing room. They then flew back to Manchester to continue the party with around 10,000 City fans at a hastily-arranged event at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola was keen for his players to enjoy the moment, but then admitted City will quickly refocus on completing that unprecedented domestic treble.
“No teams in England have done that before, so we have to challenge, compete and be focused on this game,” said Guardiola, looking ahead to next week’s Wembley date with Watford.
“Of course the FA Cup isn’t easy to achieve getting to the final and we are going to go to try to win.”
When asked if Guardiola’s City side will go down as the best in English history, he simply suggested being in the conversation is all anyone can ask.
“When people suggest you can be one of the best, that’s enough,” said Guardiola. “But we had this in Barcelona too.
“If in 10, 15, 20 years people talk about this team, it’s because we were good.
“Like books, movies, if they sustain the passage of time, if after 25 years people are watching the same movie, reading the same book. If people still talk about this team after that time, then it deserves to be considered alongside the best Man United, the best Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal.”
Captain Vincent Kompany, who has now won four Premier League titles, spoke of his pride as he led the evening celebrations on stage back at the Etihad at around 10.45pm.
“I am so proud,” he said. “This team is amazing. We’re able to fill this place at this time of night – thank you so much. This is amazing.”
Jurgen Klopp is confident Liverpool will again challenge Manchester City for the Premier League next season after just missing out on a first title in 29 years.
A 2-0 win over Wolves courtesy of two goals from Sadio Mane was ultimately not enough as City’s 4-1 win at Brighton ensured Pep Guardiola’s side finished just ahead of the Reds by a point.
While Klopp said he cannot promise the competition will be as intense and relentless as this season, he is looking forward to another battle with City.
“As long as City are around with the quality they have and the financial power and all that stuff, it’s not that any other team will pass them easily. That’s clear,” he said.
“As long as this is the case we need to be very close to perfection to win the Premier League.
“I don’t say we will have 97 points next year or whatever, maybe that’s not needed, I don’t know. We will come again.
“We made unbelievably big steps and I really expect more to come, that’s the truth.
“There’s a lot to come, a lot of years, it’s all about you and what you do with it, and that’s what we do with it.
“People will tell us it’s 30 years or whatever (since Liverpool won the league) but other clubs have bigger problems, to be honest.
“This team tried it the first time, and I really think they did it quite impressively for a first time.
“This team is not a finished article. We will go again, 100 per cent.”
Liverpool finished with the third-highest points tally in top-flight history with 97, bettered only by City’s 98 this season and 100 in the previous campaign.
They also lost just one league match – crucially at City in January – had two of the Premier League’s three joint-top scorers in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, while goalkeeper Alisson Becker claimed the Golden Glove for 21 clean sheets, one better than City counterpart Ederson.
Still that was not enough to get them over the line but Klopp is hugely encouraged by what he has seen.
“It was an unbelievable season. I can read all the stats, I can read all the numbers, it’s just really exceptional,” added the Reds boss.
“My thing is if you would get an award for the biggest development jump I can remember, then the boys would get that.
“We used the base from last year, but we have made a big step. Unbelievable – and there is more to come.
“If we are ready to make the next step, we will make the next step. That’s the plan from tomorrow on.”
Klopp will now turn his attention to the Champions League final against Tottenham on June 1.
“To be on this road and also qualify for the Champions League final, it’s pretty special,” he added.
“This team is one of the best to have ever played for Liverpool 100 per cent.”
Provided by Press Association Sport