LONDON - As Manchester United's players trudged from the pitch at Bayern Munich, it was with the knowledge that they will not experience the Champions League again for at least 17 months.
United are seven points below the top four in the English Premier League, and with only 15 points still to play for, next season is almost certain to be their first without Champions League action since 1995-96.
The 20-time English champions remain the richest and most globally popular club in England, but there are recent precedents that will make both their players and supporters shudder.
Leeds United have not graced the Champions League since reaching the semi-finals in 2001, while current league leaders Liverpool last played in the tournament in December 2009.
Once banished from Europe's top table, clubs can struggle to return.
"It's hugely important we get back in it as soon as possible," said defender Phil Jones after Wednesday's 1-3 loss at Bayern completed a 2-4 aggregate quarter-final defeat.
"Manchester United need to be in the Champions League. Nights like these do not come around too often. They are the ones you look back on and think, 'What a time that was'."
While Jones, at 22, can reasonably hope that he has not played his last Champions League game in a United shirt, the same cannot be said for his older colleagues.
Captain Nemanja Vidic has already agreed to join Inter Milan while fellow defenders Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra - scorer of a stunning opening goal in Munich - are also expected to leave in the close season.
Ryan Giggs is yet to announce whether he will extend his contract, which expires in June, and at 40, the Welshman may be destined to fall one game short of Spanish great Raul's record of 142 Champions League appearances.
Despite a wretched first campaign in the Old Trafford dugout, United manager David Moyes is expected to be given around £150 million (S$313 million) to remodel his squad in time for next season.
The former Everton manager rejected suggestions that Champions League qualification had been a minimum requirement for him to keep his job.
"My job is just to get on with my job and my focus is on getting a side together to get back in the Champions League. That's our main objective now."
Given the anticipated departures, United's defence will be his central focus, with deals for Southampton's Luke Shaw and PSV Eindhoven's Santiago Arias reportedly in place.
He is also likely to renew his search for an influential central midfielder, with Bayern's Toni Kroos his top target.
In the short term, United will embark on their league run-in without injured striker Robin van Persie. Wayne Rooney could also be set for a spell on the sidelines after appearing preoccupied by a toe injury at the Allianz Arena.
United finish their season with a palatable run of games against Norwich City, Sunderland, Hull City and Southampton but their next fixture - on April 20 - is a trip to Champions League-chasing Everton.
For Moyes, the return to Goodison Park threatens to be particularly chastening.
While the team he left last year move closer to the top four with each passing week, his current side must adjust to the uncomfortable sight of the Champions League receding in the distance.